Eric Winston works to bring Chiefs’ offensive line together

Eric Winston is the new guy on the Chiefs’ offensive line, but he’s already working on a side role as the group’s social director.

Winston came to the Chiefs from Houston, where the Texans had one of the league’s best offensive lines. He credits not only the ability of the five starters but the off-field togetherness of the whole group.

“We were successful in Houston because a lot of those guys not only practiced together, but we did a lot of stuff off the field,’’ said Winston, signed by the Chiefs last month as a free agent to be their starter at right tackle. “We did a lot of dinners together. We did a lot of things, just little events. We’d go bowling, whatever it was.

“That’s important because there are going to be times where you’ve got to tell the guy next to you something he probably doesn’t want to hear, and vice versa, they’re going to have to tell me stuff I don’t want to hear. It’s hard to do that if you’re not close, if you’re not friends, if you don’t have that personal relationship. That’s something I’m trying to cultivate here.’’

The Chiefs led the NFL in rushing in 2010, a testament in part to the play of their offensive line. But the group’s performance fell off last year.
The Chiefs are hoping to revitalize their line by adding Winston, 28, and promoting Rodney Hudson, their second-round draft pick last year, to replace retiring veteran Casey Wiegmann at center.

That leaves left guard Ryan Lilja, 30, as the old man of the bunch.

“I’ll try to be what Jeff Saturday was for me with the Colts and what Casey and what Brian Waters were for me here,’’ Lilja said. “That’s the guy that helps guys try to be better. Better players, better workers, better studiers. I’m not saying I’m the best at all those things, but I can help guys with all those things. I can tell the young guys how long the season is and how important it is to take care of your body. Guys need to hear that stuff, and I can pass along those nuggets of information.’’

Winston is the newest member of the line, but he’s second in NFL experience behind Lilja. The other starters are Branden Albert at left tackle and Jon Asamoah at right guard.

So there’s not a lot of experience on the line. Winston and Hudson will be in their first season as starters for the Chiefs, Asamoah his second.

“Ryan Lilja is going to be our leader in that room,’’ Winston said. “He’s a veteran guy. He’s won a Super Bowl before. He knows how to do it. But you’ve also got guys like Jon Asamoah and Branden Albert who are young players but I think are going to be really good players. Obviously, (Rodney) Hudson is going to have to fill some big shoes for (Casey) Wiegmann. I see no reason we can’t build that same kind of continuity and that same kind of leadership and everything that goes into being a top offensive line in this league.

“Already, in a week, you can already kind of see that forming.’’

Winston has to find his place in that beyond leading outings to restaurants and bowling alleys. In Houston, he was frequently quoted in the media but said he wasn’t always the loudest in the offensive line meetings.

“I might have been the mouthpiece, but I don’t know if I was the vocal leader,’’ he said. “For me, it’s just getting to know them and for them getting to know me. You don’t handpick leaders. You’ve always got a clown, always got a guy that keeps the room light. You’ve always got the guys that are going to do 100 percent all the time. Everyone has their roles. I don’t look at it like this guy has to be the leader in everything.

“Everyone is going to fit in where he’s going to fit in. That’s the best way to go about it. If you start forcing guys into roles, you won’t have that same mesh that you need to.’’

Bookmark and Share
blog comments powered by Disqus