ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The arrival of running back Jamaal Charles at Kansas City Chiefs training camp received all of the attention. But the appearance of outside linebacker Justin Houston on the campus of Missouri Western State University was, in its own way, just as significant.
Houston, who has made the Pro Bowl in two of his first three NFL seasons, held out from offseason practice in his desire for a new contract better than the one in its final season. He didn't get it -- at least not yet -- but showed for camp, anyway.
That development will allow the Chiefs to at least start their preparations for the season with all of the key components of their pass rush intact. The Chiefs have Houston and Tamba Hali, two of the league's premier pass rushers, at outside linebacker. They also have first-round draft pick Dee Ford, who showed great promise in his ability to get after the opposing quarterback during offseason practice.
"We're going to get it rocking again, Sack City," Hali said after he checked into Scanlon Hall, the player's dormitory at Missouri Western State. "Whatever happened in the offseason, we put all of that behind us and he's here to play football just like every other man. That's our concern, to get to the quarterback."
The Chiefs are going to need every bit of pass-rush ability they can muster this season. After releasing cornerback Brandon Flowers and losing free safety Kendrick Lewis to free agency, the Chiefs promoted last year's backups into the starting lineup and are perilously thin in the secondary.
The Chiefs had the pass rush going during the first half of last season, when they were on pace to set an NFL record for sacks. They cooled off dramatically in the second half in part because Houston missed the final five games because of a dislocated elbow, and the Chiefs had no other edge pass rusher capable of adequately complementing Hali.
The Chiefs drafted Ford this year partly to protect themselves against a lengthy holdout by Houston and partly to protect themselves against an injury to either Houston or Hali.
"We're trying to take pride in what the Chiefs organization has done in drafting guys that can get after the passer," Hali said. "Each year we're bringing in better guys.
"The more guys that can get to the quarterback, it's going to alleviate a lot stress."