The Chiefs finished their first set of voluntary organized team activities (OTAs) Thursday. Mandatory practices start June 17. It’s an opportunity for both the rookies and veterans to mingle, for the rookies to learn and for the veterans to shake off the rust.

Chiefs’ Tamba Hali says these early practices before training camp are crucial.

“This is very important being out here and being around the team,” Hali said. “The coaches are adding different plays in our systems, so it’s very important, but with the guys out here, the camaraderie is very important.”

The big stories was both starters Justin Houston and Brandon Flowers not present for any of the practices.

“I’ve been around this a long time,” Reid said Thursday. “I understand the business side. These are voluntary. I got it. That’s not a distraction. We just focus on the guys and coach the guys that are here, and these guys are working their tails off.”

Currently it’s rumor and speculation on Houston and Flowers. It’s believed Houston wants a new deal, but Houston hasn’t confirmed that. Houston is on his final year of his rookie contract which pays $1.4 million this season, 16th-most on the team. No doubt Houston is worth more. Flowers is a candidate to be cut or traded, some think. Cutting Flowers could save millions of needed dollars for the Chiefs.

Some Chiefs fans wouldn’t fault Houston for doing what he feels he has to do.

“Houston had the experience first-hand of an injury that sidelined him several games,” a Chiefs fan said. “It’s very easy to compare Hali and Houston because of their relationships on and off of the field, but it’s an apples to oranges comparison looking at their salaries. Houston has earned the chance to a big contract, and his only leverage is what he’s doing right now. There is so much going on behind the scenes that we never see or hear about.

“Unfortunately, this is all we hear and immediately condemn the player for greed or not being a ‘team player,’ while comparing Houston to Hali, who is making exponential salary with about the same output on the field.”

Houston will be a free agent next season, but still, the majority of fans want Houston at practice. When asked about his friend, Hali says Houston is coming.

“As far as I know, he will,” Hali said. “We’re good friends. He’s coming.”

The positive to an absent Flowers and Houston is others getting reps. Players like second-year player Marcus Cooper and Chiefs first-round pick LB Dee Ford.

Marcus Copper has been the starter in place of Flowers and has looked good in practice. Cooper intercepted Alex Smith twice at Wednesday’s practice. Cooper was the Chiefs rookie of the year last season. Ford’s quickness is glaring.

“His first step – if anybody reminds you of Derrick Thomas, that kid should pretty much remind you of Derrick Thomas’ first step,” Hali said of Ford. “He gets off the ball so fast, it’s scary. I just kept rewinding it yesterday just looking at his first step, and it’s almost like as soon as the ball snaps, he’s with it. I don’t know if he times it, but his first step is incredible.”

Ford made sure to stick close to Hali, but Hali didn’t mind. Hali spoke an old-fashioned word to describe the Chiefs and helping Ford – loyalty.

“Oh, I have to help this guy,” Hali said. “The Chiefs have been loyal to me and kept me here for a long time even when I had three sacks in my career. They still believed in my talent and kept me around. The best thing I can do with the knowledge that I’ve acquired is to pass it onto these guys.”

A question fans had from last season’s disappointing playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts was how did the team feel and could that bad memory somehow help the Chiefs this season? Hali put it best.

“I think that’s the worst I’ve ever experienced in my life,” Hali said. “I’ve never been a part of something like that. We know the type of team we have and what we can accomplish. Maybe we took some things for granted, and that one will sit with us throughout the year and throughout the games.

“That will sit with us because we definitely have something to prove. To lose a game like that – our fans know it, our players know it, the guys that have been here and the coaches, it’s hard for them to continue to do what they’re doing knowing that they put so much in and how we accomplished so much at the point and things turn around like that. It will sit with us and help us go through this season.”

Stephen Brown is a regular contributor to the Chiefs fan website, To reach Brown, send email to See his "Chief Concerns" blog at