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Hang 'em up, Priest

Holmes should take a 'change of pace' hint and retire

Posted: Wednesday March 29, 2006 1:24PM; Updated: Wednesday March 29, 2006 2:19PM
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Priest Holmes made the Pro Bowl in three straight seasons from 2001 to '03.
Priest Holmes made the Pro Bowl in three straight seasons from 2001 to '03.
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Judging from some of the signals the Chiefs are sending running back Priest Holmes, it's hard to imagine he'll ever play football in Kansas City again. Every time the topic comes up -- as it did during this week's owners' meetings in Orlando -- it's accompanied by the undeniable sense that Chiefs management is hoping he packs it in. If he retires quickly, that would be great. If he takes his time, that'd probably be acceptable as well. But make no mistake about it: The overall vibe emanating from the Chiefs, despite all their public talk about wanting Holmes back, is that there's little room left in their offense for their all-time leading rusher.

I raise this subject today because I sat in on the media session held by Chiefs head coach Herm Edwards on Tuesday inside a crowded ballroom at Orlando's Grand Hyatt Cypress Hotel. Such an event is tailor-made for a colorful quote like Edwards; it's basically an informal hour of chit-chat during which he entertains just about any question. Of course, the first inquiry involved Holmes, and Edwards wasted no time explaining the running back's future. It didn't sound rosy.

He first repeated what he said in January, shortly after the Chiefs hired him to replace Dick Vermeil: Pro Bowl running back Larry Johnson would be the team's starter and also would be expected to be a leader. When asked about Holmes' role, Edwards said the 10-year veteran would be a "change of pace" back, a runner who could perhaps help his career by accepting far fewer carries.

I knew Holmes was done the moment I heard that. When coaches talk about "change of pace" in relation to a runner, they're usually talking about someone who doesn't fit well into a team's plans.

I say this because I remember how Edwards handled two talented runners during his five-year tenure with the New York Jets. He gave Curtis Martin 20 to 25 carries a game, while LaMont Jordan got about one fourth as many touches. It's one thing to ask a young runner like Jordan to stay patient in that situation. It's another to ask a 32-year-old man like Holmes to suck down his pride and accept being a bit player.