Former Rams lineman Turley must shoulder load for Chiefs

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

RIVER FALLS, Wis. -- To anyone who ever faced a bleak, empty future, Kyle Turley could already be a hero.

Doctors said the All-Pro tackle's career was over, cut short in his prime by a back injury so devastating it nearly destroyed all the strength in one leg.

Fans gave up on him. Teams gave up on him.

Just about the only person who did not give up on Kyle Turley was Kyle Turley. Electing not to undergo a second operation on his back, he worked for two years, lifting weights, carefully monitoring what he at, training, sweating and hurting.

But he never quit.

Now with a look of determination as well as a thick patch of chin stubble on his stern visage, he's braving the broiling sun of the Kansas City training camp.

"It's been a long time for me," he said. "I've been going at it for two years trying to correct this thing and now my back's healthy."

But without appearing in a game since 2003, can he retain the form that made him one of the NFL's most powerful blockers and an All-Pro in New Orleans six seasons ago?

For the Chiefs' sake, he had better.

They signed him in June to compete with several right tackle prospects. But then left tackle Willie Roaf retired on the eve of camp, and Turley was immediately thrust onto the first team.

Still testing his surgically repaired back, still chipping away two years of rust, he suddenly has been asked to replace an 11-time Pro Bowler.

No longer just an inspiring example of fortitude and grit, he could possibly be one of the keys to the season for the Chiefs.

Without that steady presence protecting Trent Green's blind side, Kansas City's lack of quarterback depth becomes a grave concern. Larry Johnson's bid for 2,000 yards rushing could be impossible if he lacks that powerful blocker at the point of attack.

So can someone who has been out of football for two years suddenly replace one of the game's best left tackles?

"I'm not thinking about that," Turley said. "This is about me and my career and me getting back out on the football field. I wish Willie was here, though. This would be a much better offensive line if Willie was here, and that would put me at right tackle."

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