Eric Winston finding out what life in AFC West is all about

Eric Winston's NFL career was spent in Houston in a division where the rivalries were relatively new.

The Texans compete in the AFC South and the games with Tennessee, Jacksonville and Indianapolis were heated, especially the games with the Titans.
But as Winston embarks on his first season with the Kansas City Chiefs he's already seeing how much different it is to play in a division -- the AFC West -- where the rivalries are long-standing and in some cases a little nasty.

The Chiefs, Oakland, Denver and San Diego are all original American Football League franchises, and are all in the same division and when they play it sometimes just isn't another NFL game.

"It's pretty neat and I'm looking forward to that," Winston said last week. "I always thought the game with Tennessee was big, and Indy was always a good game and Jacksonville always played us tough as well. But you have that long standing, maybe just hatred for one another and the organizations in the process it does make it a little different.

"Those games are fun, and they have a little extra pop to them."

The different uniform and playing different teams is just part of the change for Winston, a seventh-year pro and Lee grad, as he will play his first game with the Chiefs at noon today at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City against Atlanta.

Winston said his transition to a new organization and new city has been relatively smooth. He said there is always some change when you go to a new team with a new coach, and moving into a new town.

When Winston was released in March by the Texans, the Chiefs were one of the first teams to court him and bring him to Kansas City. Kansas City even took Winston to one of the city's famous barbecue restaurants.

But he said the transition to a place such as Kansas City has been good because he said other than its location it's a similar city to Houston. Winston said he moved his family up there with him as well.

"Kansas City is a really good place," Winston said. "I think if we were up in the Northeast where the way of living is a little different it might be a little harder. But Kansas City is like Houston in a lot of ways."

Meanwhile on the field, Winston has been able to fit into a Chiefs team that has high hopes of navigating its way through the AFC West into the postseason after a year hiatus.

The Chiefs finished a disappointing 7-9 last season and went through a coaching change. Winston will be part of a revamped offensive line that will be blocking for a solid 1-2 punch at running back.

Kansas City picked up Peyton Hillis in the offseason and he will be back there with the speedy Jamaal Charles.

"I'm real excited about both of those guys because they can go," Winston said. "It's not just them but we've got a really good set of backs."

It's been a few months since Winston was released from the only professional team he's played for, and even today he still gets asked questions about his surprising release by the Texans.

Winston said he's moved on and is ready for what awaits with a new team in a new city and in a new division.

"It's just the way it goes and you can't harp on it and let it consume you," Winston said. "I'm here now and I'm just going to make the best of it. I happy to get to know my teammates and get all in with them."

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