Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Fit hip has RB Holmes feeling fine

By Doug Tucker
The Associated Press

RIVER FALLS, Wis. - Priest Holmes sat out Tuesday's practice with a hip problem. Those two words - "hip problem" - would have spread panic through the Kansas City Chiefs camp a year ago.

This year, nobody is sweating. The three-time All-Pro running back is more than a year removed from the surgery on his right hip that threatened his career.

"His hip got tired on him and he just sort of ran out of gas and got weak," coach Dick Vermeil said after Tuesday's morning workout. "He just backed down and probably won't practice tonight."

Instead of calling it a career after his surgery, Holmes led the Chiefs to a 13-3 record, scoring a league-record 27 touchdowns. A vigorous offseason workout program has brought him back for his eighth season feeling friskier than he has felt in at least three years.

"This is my second camp since the hip injury. I know that just by the accumulation of practice time it's going to get sore and fatigued," he said. "It's just a matter of stepping away and taking off a practice."

Holmes' mended hip also has led to amended goals.

"Last year the motivation was a lot different - more personal of getting back on the field and not letting my teammates down," he said. "Now it's about winning the championship."

Although he got off to a slow start last year as the hip gained strength, Holmes still ran for 1,420 yards. That was down from the 1,615 yards rushing in 14 games the season before, when the injury cost him the final two games.

Now, back to full strength and running behind one of the NFL's finest offensive lines, the Chiefs hope Holmes, 31, is headed for a monster season.

"I would expect him to, and he expects to have a better year," Vermeil said.

No other player in the NFL over the past three seasons can match Holmes' 4,590 yards rushing, 6,566 yards from scrimmage and 61 touchdowns. And so there's no doubt Vermeil swallowed hard when Holmes walked into his office and said he was thinking about retiring.

"It was a matter of just a thought," Holmes said. "I shared it with Coach Vermeil, and we worked it out."

Still, after taking so many hits for all these years, retirement looked good.

While at the University of Texas, Holmes was sobered by seeing former Longhorn All-American Earl Campbell hobbling around after taking too many hits in the NFL.

"The condition he was in at the time made you as a running back wonder, 'Will I end up the same way?' " Holmes said.

A conditioning fanatic, Holmes believes he'll always be able to lift his children and grandchildren.

"I believe just with the work ethic, always conditioning my body, I'll be in a situation where I feel comfortable walking away and being in the right position," he said.

Holmes' career rushing stats

* Source:

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