ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Rick Stanzi left Iowa about 15 months ago for the Kansas City Chiefs but there’s little to suggest the NFL life has changed either his personality or his priorities.
After a scrimmage Tuesday against the Arizona Cardinals, Stanzi was one of the last players to leave the autograph line on the way to the locker room at Missouri Western State University. Wednesday, he was one of the last players to walk off the practice field.
And he still has the hair, only it’s longer now.
“This is the furthest I’ve ever gone with it, actually,” Stanzi said.
Stanzi’s hairstyle rubbed off on former Iowa and current Chiefs teammate Rob Bruggeman, who traded in his traditional crew cut for a style hanging just above the shoulders.
“Rick looked pretty good with it so I figured I’d follow suit, right?” Bruggeman said with a laugh.
For a moment Wednesday it seemed like old times for Stanzi and Bruggeman. Both players worked out on the Chiefs’ third-team offense with Bruggeman snapping the ball to Stanzi just like the 2008 season. Both are competing for roles with the Chiefs this training camp; Bruggeman as a reserve offensive lineman and Stanzi as a backup quarterback.
“It’s been fun taking snaps with Rob again,” Stanzi said. “Some of those guys you never get to play with (again) back in Iowa. You had so much fun playing with them that it’s so nice to be able to have a chance to do it again at the next level.
“He’ll be the only one laughing in the huddle, but me and him know what we’re talking about. We’ve had a couple of those moments.”
While the pair share a few laughs from their past on the Chiefs’ practice field, Stanzi usually displays the same focus that made him one of Iowa’s most successful quarterbacks. He worked with the Chiefs’ second- and third-team offenses on Tuesday in a scrimmage with the Arizona Cardinals. Stanzi will enter Friday’s preseason opener against Arizona as the Chiefs’ third quarterback, but that’s only for this week, Chiefs Coach Romeo Crennel said Wednesday.
Stanzi and former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn are battling for the Chiefs’ back-up spot behind starter Matt Cassel. Quinn will enter the game first, but Stanzi will play quite a bit as well.
“The plan is to evaluate them and see who can take the step forward and then if a guy takes a step forward, then we feel like he’s going to continue to go forward, then continue with him,” Crennel said.
Stanzi, who stands 6-foot-4 and weighs 228 pounds, has had mixed results in training camp. During one situational scrimmage against the Cardinals, Stanzi completed three straight check-down passes and moved the ball 30 yards up the field. Then he underthrew a post-corner route and was intercepted.
After the pick Stanzi walked to the sidelines with intended wide receiver Devon Wylie and spoke for a minute about the route. Then the play was forgotten.
“He’s got great touch,” Wylie said. “In OTAs and mini-camp me and him connected a good amount. He’s a good quarterback. He’s a lot of fun to play with, and he’s a great guy overall.”
Stanzi, however, harshly critiqued himself for his performance so far in camp.
“Up and down, up and down,” Stanzi said. “I need to be more consistent obviously. Get a little better with the reads, recognizing defenses, understanding where I want to go with the ball right away instead of leaving myself out to dry and missing opportunities.
“You can’t have good plays then drop down and have a bad play. Obviously mistakes are a part of it and you don’t want to make them, but you have to understand that they do happen. There’s ebbs and flows in the game. You’re going to play well and there’s times when things aren’t going to go well.”
Stanzi didn’t play in any games last year even after losing Cassel to a season-ending injury. But Crennel
and the Chiefs still have confidence in Stanzi, who they drafted in the fifth round in 2011.
“He’s made nice progression,” Crennel said. “He’s been competing, and that’s why we don’t know exactly who the No. 2 is right now because there’s good competition going on between the guys.
“Is he perfect? No. There’s nobody that’s perfect.”
Stanzi had to play catch-up last year in training camp because of the NFL lockout. He wasn’t allowed to even look at a playbook until last August and the whole season became a whirlwind. This year he’s had a full off-season with the team, participating in all workouts and drills. He’s still learning but he has a better grasp of the team’s new offense and NFL expectations.
“If there isn’t any challenges, it’s no fun playing,” he said.
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