Sun, Jan 11, 2004 - Page 24 News List

Two-week break has Chiefs rested, ready for playoffs

AP , KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI

It's been more than a week since Priest Holmes has been hit by a 135kg lineman, and the Kansas City Chiefs running back is feeling spry again.

The two-week layoff between the Chiefs' final regular-season game and Sunday's playoff against Indianapolis seems to have done wonders for Holmes' battered record-breaking body.

"If you would have asked me 10 days ago, I would have said I felt pretty bad and bruised up," he said Friday.

For a couple of days after Kansas City closed out its regular season on Dec. 28 against the Chicago Bears, the NFL's single-season touchdown leader could hardly get out of bed. A long, 16-game schedule that followed hip surgery last spring had taken its toll on the two-time All-Pro.

"I've felt every hit," he said.

But as today's AFC divisional playoff game against the Colts draws near, the 30-year-old Holmes is feeling more like 21.

And that could be bad news for the Colts. Even though he never felt 100 percent, Holmes still rushed for 1,420 yards and 27 touchdowns, breaking the single-season TD record of Marshall Faulk. He also caught a team-high 74 passes for 690 yards as the Chiefs tied their franchise record for wins at 13 and led the NFL in scoring for the second straight year.

"Priest Holmes is the heart and soul of our offense," Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil said.

``He scores all the touchdowns. But what's exciting for me right now is to see Priest go through a week of preparation like he's gone through. It's the best week he's had since last year. He's faster and quicker than he's been all year during the middle of the week.

"During the middle of the week this year so far it's been play the game and then recoup to play next week. The last two weeks now he's been really quick and fast and explosive on our practice field. It's been impressive."

Vermeil let the Chiefs take virtually all of last week off. Nobody was required to do anything except light conditioning work until Saturday. Then, after one practice, the Chiefs were given another two days to rest.

Holmes, who never complained about the punishment he was taking, does enjoy having the spring back in his step.

"It's amazing, you're out there breaking records and you're scoring touchdowns, it can make all the pain go away," he said. "As far as living with and managing pain, it's what I do; it's part of my career. So I definitely accept that part of what I have to do to get ready for Sunday.

"As far as being on top of my game, I really believe that I am," he said. "It's just that we have some great trainers and different people that help me get my body back on track."

Although quarterback Trent Green passed for more than 4,000 yards and was voted MVP by his teammates, the Chiefs' offense revolves squarely around Holmes, who has led NFL running backs in total yards from scrimmage for the past three years. He is certain to be a key element in the game plan for the Colts because the Chiefs will be hoping to run the clock and keep Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning off the field.

The Colts, like the Chiefs, are not known for their ability to stop the run. They allowed an average of more than 123 yards, 20th on the league charts.

"I think it's important to stay on the field for both teams," Vermeil said. "Indianapolis has done a better job of that than we do, although we've scored points anyway in a less amount of time. It would be important for us to try and stay on the field and be efficient. It helps our defense out."

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