KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs will recognize a few players when they look across the field at the opposing sideline on Sunday.
It’s an alumni party of sorts, as Tennessee Titans running back Dexter McCluster, kicker Ryan Succop, safety Bernard Pollard, running back Jackie Battle and defensive lineman Ropati Pitoitua once wore a Chiefs uniform.
The attention Wednesday fell on McCluster, whom the Titans made available to the Chiefs media during a conference call.
McCluster signed a free-agent contract with the Titans on March 11, the first day of the league’s calendar year. The fifth-year pro spent the first four seasons of his career with the Chiefs as a second-round pick (36th overall) out of Mississippi in 2010.
McCluster said he understands the business aspect of the NFL and held no ill feelings over not being able to stay in a Chiefs uniform. He adds it became clear late in the negotiation process he wouldn’t return, but said the Chiefs were always upfront with him.
“I built some great relationships there and it came down to the last minute,” McCluster said. “But one thing I thanked them for was being honest. They didn’t try to blow smoke up my tail. They told me, ‘We would love to keep you, but right now we just can’t.’”
McCluster produced arguably his best season in 2013, being named as a Pro Bowl returner and recognized by The Associated Press as a second-team All-Pro. He recorded 686 punt return yards last season, which established most return yards in a single season in Chiefs history.
McCluster finished his career in Kansas City with 79 punt returns for 959 yards and three touchdowns, and 52 kickoff returns for 1,087 yards. He had 172 catches for 1,500 yards and five touchdowns, and 662 yards rushing and a touchdown on 152 attempts.
“Kansas City gave me the opportunity,” McCluster said. “I loved it there. I still have love for that city – thankful for it – but right now this is a new chapter in my career.”
RESPECT THE OPPONENT
Chiefs coach Andy Reid didn’t waste time complimenting the upcoming opponent.
“We look forward to the opportunity to play the Tennessee Titans,” Reid said. “We know they are a good football team.”
The Chiefs defeated the Titans 26-17 in Week Five of 2013 when Mike Munchak was at the helm. But the Chiefs will face a new coaching staff led by Ken Whisenhunt.
“They’ve got a new coaching staff,” Reid said. “Similar situation to what we came into last year as a team. They are playing good, hard, aggressive football.”
Reid complimented Titans quarterback Jake Locker, defensive coordinator Ray Horton and Whisenhunt’s 18-year history in the NFL, which includes seven seasons as a head coach.
“We’ve got to make sure that we prepare ourselves,” Reid said, “go through all the steps that it takes here each day, take care of business, learn the game plan, learn the personnel we are playing against, understand the schemes and then go play.”
TIPPING THE CAP
Offensive lineman Brian Waters announced his retirement Tuesday after 13 seasons, 11 spent with the Chiefs and the last two with the New England Patriots (2011) and Dallas Cowboys (2013).
Waters was a six-time Pro Bowl selection, a two-time All-Pro and a recipient of the 2009 Walter Payton Man of the Year with the Chiefs before then-general manager Scott Pioli and then-coach Todd Haley unceremoniously cut Waters before the start of the 2011 regular season.
That was a former regime.
The Chiefs have new leadership and Reid made a classy gesture by taking a few minutes during his morning media session to acknowledge Waters’ career.
“Just a quick recognition to Brian Waters,” Reid said. “Any time you play in this league for 11-plus years, in particular, the 11 years right here in Kansas City, have six Pro Bowls under your belt, and won Man of the Year, you’ve covered most of the bases.
“I couldn’t stand competing against him because he’s a heck of a football player, and I didn’t have a chance to coach him. But I know the organization holds him in high regards, in particular, Clark and the Hunt family. He’s one of the all-time favorites that they’ve had here. We, and I, wish him well in retirement and nothing but the best as he goes forward.”
NOTES: Center Eric Kush (shoulder) did not practice Wednesday. “We haven’t counted him out for this game,” Reid said … The Chiefs list strong safety Eric Berry (heel), defensive end Mike DeVito (hand), linebacker Tamba Hali (knee), wide receiver Junior Hemingway (hip), wide receiver A.J. Jenkins (concussion), linebacker Josh Martin (quad), defensive lineman Vance Walker (hand) and wide receiver Albert Wilson (ankle) as full participants in Wednesday’s practice.