Holmes says he'll be back next year
Injured Chief ‘definitely, 100 percent' plans on playing
The Kansas City Star

A day after his season officially ended, Priest Holmes tried to erase doubts about his willingness to play the next one.

Holmes said Friday that he “definitely, 100 percent” intended to play in 2005.

“In terms of next year, I'm excited because of the fact it gives me an opportunity to heal up and start preparing for the '05 season,” he said a day after the Chiefs placed him on their injured-reserve list. “There are a lot of things we need to do. We left a number of things on the table this year.

“The '05 season is going to be exciting because we know there's a valuable lesson we learned this year. When you start having guys go down, it makes it very difficult to win ballgames.”

Holmes strained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee in a Nov. 7 game at Tampa Bay. At the time, he was the NFL leader in both rushing yardage (892) and touchdowns (15).

Holmes left the Tampa Bay game in the third quarter after the injury but spoke afterward as if he might play the next week in New Orleans.

He never made it back as far as the practice field. Holmes indicated he could have played with a brace, but that was something neither the Chiefs nor Holmes was interested in because of the risk of further injury.

Only in recent days, as the knee failed to respond, did Holmes and the Chiefs realize the wait for improvement would be fruitless.

Holmes, who said he won't need surgery, indicated the decision to shut down for the season was not his alone.

“It was more collective between the Chiefs and myself and the doctors knowing we didn't have enough time left in this season for me to get healthy enough to be able to play,” he said. “It just takes a lot longer for the MCL to heal up. For the most part, I've always been able to determine how long I would be out. This was just a situation where it took a lot longer.

“Each week we were going with the hopes of being able to come back this season. Right now, we do know it's going to take a little longer in order for me to heal up — and that time is going to be after (Jan. 2).”

Quarterback Trent Green said: “He never gave any indication that he wasn't going to come back this year. He was a little worried with the progress he was making. He was hoping to go at a faster rate.”

Holmes is 31, an age when many running backs start to show the long-term effects of playing a brutally demanding position. Few backs have received as much work as Holmes did in the 3½ seasons before the injury.

Holmes also briefly considered retirement before this season. He was serious enough to mention it to Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil and later discuss it publicly.

“I think it would have been unfair for me to go into the season with intentions early on about retirement this past year and not let everyone know,” Holmes said. “It wasn't something that needed to be kept behind closed doors. Whether or not that makes me look as if I'm not ready to play or wanting to play, that's never been the case.”

Holmes also believed he was a target for opponents deliberately taking shots to try to get him out of the game.

“I'm not going to say that's unfair,” Holmes said. “Everything that happens inside the white lines is fair. The same way I believe people have definitely attempted to remove me from the game. … I would encourage our own defense to make sure we could remove anybody else.”

But he said none of that would discourage him from playing next season.

“This particular season that we're getting ready to approach, I'm definitely, 100 percent preparing to play,” he said.

As for the immediate future, until the Chiefs' Jan. 2 season-finale in San Diego, Holmes will rehabilitate the knee, mostly in Kansas City.

“When you're hurt, it's hard,” Green said. “As much as you can be in the locker room, you still don't feel like you're in it. You're not in the huddle, you're not in the meetings, you're not in the games, you're not on the flights going to and coming from games. There's a lot that you miss, and that separation is tough.”