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Who better to present this point of view than Priest Holmes?

2004 Pro Forecast
Interview with Priest Holmes

By Bob Harris

In planning this year's issue of the Pro Forecast -- our 15th edition -- we decided it was time to find out what a high-end, high-profile NFL skill player at the top of his game thought about the booming world of Fantasy football.

After all, we're talking about a player who finished the 2003 season with an amazing 27 rushing touchdowns, surpassing the league's all-time single-season record of 25 set by Emmitt Smith in 1995.

Oh yeah. ... Along the way, Holmes made those who questioned his ability to return from the hip injury that cut his 2002 season short look more than a little foolish.

Despite playing two more games in '03, his yards from scrimmage total (2,110) was down from 2002 (2,287) -- a shortfall he more than compensated for with the above-mentioned 27 touchdowns (all of which came on the ground). He was a major reason the Chiefs hit pay dirt on all but one red-zone opportunity in the regular season.

As head coach Dick Vermeil put it: "Priest Holmes is the heart and soul of our offense."

Holmes started somewhat slowly as coaches held down his workload, but was stronger at season's end than in previous years. He remained the team's workhorse with 320 carries and team-high 74 receptions.

In addition to the touchdown record, Holmes closed out 2003 with the fourth-highest single-season point total in league history. Ironically, he only finished second in scoring this year behind Rams kicker Jeff Wilkins, whose 163-point total was one more than Holmes' and was the third-best total in NFL history.

Holmes is the highest-scoring non-kicker, however. League record holder Paul Hornung got his 176 points on 15 TDs as a runner, 15 field goals and 41 PATS as a kicker.

We caught up with Holmes, who was in Kansas City taking part in the Chiefs offseason program, on April 13. He then spent the better part of an hour discussing his NFL career, his team, his philosophy and his views on Fantasy football.

PRO FORECAST: You're coming off an amazing 2003 season in which you set a new, all-time single-season touchdown record. Looking back on it now, how significant a record is that?

PRIEST HOLMES: I think it's going to take another three or four years or five years before I can actually look back and really see the impact that I've had here in Kansas City.

I do know that walking around Kansas City, there's a smile on everyone's face so I know I did something right as far as scoring all the different touchdowns.

But a lot of that is due to my offensive linemen and the head coach, Dick Vermeil. Without these guys it would have been very difficult to achieve something like that.

PRO FORECAST: Of course, your record-setting day against Chicago in last year's regular-season finale was even more impressive given the Bears' obvious desire not to let you get the 26th and 27th TDs (which also happened to break Marshall Faulk's record for single-season touchdowns) against them.

PRIEST HOLMES: Now see. I didn't even realize that.

PRO FORECAST: Here's what Trent Green said after that game: "It was pretty clear to everybody that they were overplaying the run. We were laughing about it a little bit." Tell me what you remember about it.

PRIEST HOLMES: I do remember the box being stacked. I mean, it seemed like their whole entire team was inside the linebacker box. It really felt like no matter which direction I was going, they were sending about four of five extra guys that direction.

But I think that our team being so defined and detailed when it comes to the red zone, that they could have brought everyone from Chicago and put them on the field and we would have scored those two touchdowns.

PRO FORECAST: As you know, your nose for the end zone, overall skill level and consistent productivity make you a prime Fantasy pick. Now I understand you're familiar with the World Championship of Fantasy Football?

PRIEST HOLMES: Some familiarity. ...

PRO FORECAST: I was also told you met last year's WCOFF champions?

PRIEST HOLMES: It's so funny. I was actually in Houston and I met a few guys that were champions and I couldn't believe it.

I couldn't believe the fact that No. 1, they won so much money.

The second thing, I can't believe out of all the people that they said enter into Fantasy football that they were the ones that came out on top. It had to be amazing.

PRO FORECAST: Not surprisingly, you were their first round pick in Las Vegas last September. How does it feel being the horse pulling a $200,000 cart up to somebody's door?

PRIEST HOLMES: That's what I told them. ... I told them I'm gonna invoice them (laughing). I told them sometime this summer. I'd let them enjoy some of that money, but I'd invoice them in the summer time.

PRO FORECAST: While we're on the subject of Fantasy football, I'm wondering how often you're approached with Fantasy-related questions during the course of an average regular-season week?

PRIEST HOLMES: I would say about four times a week.

PRO FORECAST: How do you typically respond?

PRIEST HOLMES: (Laughing) I'm gonna invoice you. ...

PRO FORECAST: What do you think of the NFL's recent efforts to promote Fantasy football?

PRIEST HOLMES: I actually think it's good. Because I think that whatever helps promote something that's going to benefit the players; going to give the recognition of what players are doing, I'm all for it.

PRO FORECAST: You were drafted lower than you might otherwise have been in many Fantasy leagues after missing the final two games of the 2002 season with a hip injury. As we know now, the concerns leading to the devaluation turned out to be misplaced. ... When did you know those concerns were unfounded?

PRIEST HOLMES: Well the injury came late in December and I know it took three MRIs before we actually found what was going on in the hip. I worked with a doctor who was a top three specialist in the world; his name is Dr. [Mark] Thilepon.

He worked on my hip and I actually had a chance to put (the MRI of former Raider great) Bo Jackson's injury and my MRI right next to each other and could tell the differences. Right when I saw that I really believed in my heart and I knew from there that I'd be okay because it was just totally different as far as where the injury site was.

Bo Jackson's injury was inside the capsule; mine was on the outside. So I really felt very comfortable.

And then just like they put the ball in my hand and expect me to produce on Sunday's, I did the same thing with Dr. Thilepon. I was looking for him to produce as far as repairing my hip and that's what he did. Just that.

PRO FORECAST: There were also contract issues -- issues you seemed to work around and through with little or no difficulty. How?

PRIEST HOLMES: Well it was something (Chiefs president) Carl Peterson said. 'Priest if you can show me that you can run, fall down, get up, take a hit and keep on tickin' then I have no problem paying you.'

Well of course, he shouldn't have said that.

That changed my whole focus. They're asking me 'Hey we have this team meeting,' I'd say, 'No. You want to see me fall down and get up, not go to a meeting.'

So I'm over there doing rehab and working out and it really came to the point where I just had to put my foot down and say this is what I want and I really believed that I would come back from the injury.

And then of course, he stood and told me exactly what he wanted to see from me.

PRO FORECAST: In fact, I have the exact quote right here. Following last summer's Hall of Fame game, Peterson said: "We still need to see where he's at. He's making great progress, and I'm certainly pleased with it. But, he hasn't played in a game yet, he hasn't been knocked down with a live hit yet, he hasn't made a move on a guy and scored a touchdown yet. We all want to see that, including Priest."

PRIEST HOLMES: Yes. And that's all that needed to be said. Once he gave me that goal, I went after it.

PRO FORECAST: It's all about removing obstacles, isn't it Priest? It's been a recurring theme throughout your career. Someone puts something in your way and you make it disappear.

PRIEST HOLMES: I really do. I try to break down that barrier. That's been pretty much my life as far as just a number of obstacles being put in front of me -- whether I put them there myself or they've come from outside forces -- the one thing I know is to stay positive, keep showing up every day, putting first things first and you can knock down anything in the way.

PRO FORECAST: That approach seems to work quite well for you. It's a topic we'll touch on again before we're done. In the meantime, I'd like to focus on last season, when -- despite coming off what appeared to be a serious injury and the potential distraction of a contract dispute -- you finished the season with three more TDs than in 2002, carried the ball seven more times and pulled in four more passes. How do you top that?

PRIEST HOLMES: They asked me that last year and I didn't even realize how close I was to the touchdown record the season before -- before the injury. I didn't even realize it. I really didn't.

But, I knew that once I got knocked down and I was laying right before the end zone in Mile High, in Denver, I thought to myself, 'Man, I was really this close to breaking that record.' And I said 'You know what? After I come back from this injury I'm going to do it again.'

And that's what I did.

And now, here it is I've broken the record. They've even just recently taken my jersey and the football that I scored the last touchdown on and put them in the Hall of Fame.

PRO FORECAST: How cool is that?

PRIEST HOLMES: I'm excited. Because when we went to the Hall of Fame to play Green Bay in the preseason, I thought to myself while I stood there looking at all the different running backs that were in there -- Walter Payton, Eric Dickerson -- just the different players, different jerseys and different things that were talked about there, I said to myself, 'I'm going to put something in this Hall of Fame.'

I didn't realize it would be that soon.

But I said that to myself. 'I'm going to put something in the Hall of Fame; something of mine is going to be up in there.' And here it comes just a few months later.

So, I'm really excited about everything that has come together so far and played out. Because of the fact that -- just with all the hard work -- I pretty much had to pay my dues the first four years. And here it is now. ... Going into my eighth year and so much has happened.

PRO FORECAST: We're going to get into that a little more before we're done, too. But let's shift gears for now and talk offensive line. ... We ran an article last summer ranking O-lines; the Chiefs ranked No. 1. Our assessment read as follows:

"Good coaching, great talent and solid teamwork make the Chiefs offensive line the best in football. Solid right across the line, there is no weakness for defenses to exploit. ... This group simply knows how to dominate the defenses across from them on a play-by-play basis."

What did we miss?

PRIEST HOLMES: I don't think you missed anything. That offensive line makes it very difficult for anybody to penetrate and try to exploit any weaknesses. The strength is in veteran players like Willie Roaf. It really makes a huge difference when you have younger offensive linemen who can look up to Willie Roaf and a Will Shields.

Those guys are teaching while they're practicing. And that's one of the exciting thing about watching them.

PRO FORECAST: How about Tony Richardson?

PRIEST HOLMES: Now T-Rich, that's my man; that's my main man right there. He's the one who makes Sundays a lot easier on me because he's clearing the way and keeping those extra hits from coming about.

But the one thing I know we always joke about is that when I first got here in Kansas City they didn't know if they wanted T-Rich to continue to run the ball. They didn't know exactly what they were getting in me.

So for a while there we were just kind of shuffling. He would go in for a series; I would go in for a series and the chemistry just wasn't there.

But ever since then, the chemistry has really worked out for us. You know, he really feels that I'm going to lay it on the line for Priest and I know Priest is going to do exactly what he can.

PRO FORECAST: He certainly seems to understand his role. ...

PRIEST HOLMES: Yes. And my thing is to make Tony look good just like he's trying to make me look good. And I really believe that. You know, we got him into his first Pro Bowl this year and that's what's exciting; a guy like that paying his dues, taking him out of the running back position and how saying 'I'm going to put in some work for this guy that's coming in from Baltimore.'

He did just that.

PRO FORECAST: What kind of impact will (offensive tackle) John Tait's departure have this coming season?

PRIEST HOLMES: Well I think it's going to be real hard to fill the shoes because of the fact that with John Tait -- that's a very large person. Just his size, his stature and the way he can hold that right side of the line, it's going to be something that's just hard to replace.

But I do know we're keeping Will Shields and Willie Roaf.

Those guys are going to be instrumental as far as younger players learning from them; learning how to practice, how to play -- how to play perfect football as close as they can. And that's the one thing we do real well as far as being in sync and the detail we bring to the table.

PRO FORECAST: I imagine that's the kind of thing Derrick Blaylock and Larry Johnson are getting from you, no?

PRIEST HOLMES: They're actually getting that and I don't even get paid for that part (laughing). I need to re-write my contract and put that in there (laughing harder). ...

PRO FORECAST: Do you set goals in terms of production heading into a given season?

PRIEST HOLMES: I'm very particular about my goals. I really don't share them. I like to keep them in house and not really let them out there. ... But I really do; I set goals all the time.

It could be from not making a mistake in practice; how many times can I practice without dropping the ball; how many times can I have a firm grip on the ball. You know, I'm always setting different goals.

In terms of record-setting goals, after getting hurt -- while I was laying on the field -- I got up and set that goal.

So, it's one of those things that any goal that I've set, I've come very close to meeting it or met it. I'm very comfortable about that.

PRO FORECAST: All right, let's set the controls on the "Wayback Machine" to 1998. You first made a name for yourself with a huge season, rushing for 1,008 yards and seven touchdowns despite averaging just 15 carries per game. What did coaches tell you (after that season) about your role in 1999?

PRIEST HOLMES: Well. ... They weren't completely sold on me at the time. They really felt they wanted a back that was more competitive with other backs in that division. You had Jerome Bettis at the time; Corey Dillon; Eddie George. And these guys were bigger backs; fast, durable and they looked just like your linemen when they stood in the huddle.

And I think that's what they were really looking for.

PRO FORECAST: And so along comes Errict Rhett (in 1999).

PRIEST HOLMES: Right. Then along comes Errict Rhett. And that pretty much told the story: 'Hey. You're going to have to go back to the backburner Priest.'

But Errict Rhett and I actually ended up having a pretty good relationship. You know, we both like playing chess and we're both very competitive. [Baltimore] also had another guy by the name of Jay Graham, they had drafted the same year I came in.

But I just think the back that they were really looking for was a back that was similar to what they got in Jamal Lewis and that was what they had been looking for. And up until that time, there really wasn't anything I could do because being a free agent you know, you just happen to be there.

PRO FORECAST: The fact you suffered a knee injury the second week of the '99 season (against Pittsburgh) -- and the fact Rhett reeled off three straight 100-yard games -- didn't help your cause any.

However, you still wound up starting four games that year and finished the season with 89 carries, 506 yards and 2 TDs (one rushing; one receiving). How did you view your status with the Ravens heading into 2000?

PRIEST HOLMES: Well, they had already made it very clear what they were going to do. I was back in Texas and they had given me a call and said they were looking at Jamal Lewis, a back from Tennessee. Fast, durable; had the size of a linebacker. And you know that really fit the description of what they had been looking for.

But for me, it was really about, 'Okay, what can I do to make the team better. And it was really just to grab Jamal and really try to help him improve his study habits and just being ready for game day. Because physically, there was nothing I could help Jamal with; but as far as being prepared and reading linebackers; hitting the holes; as far as some of the things you learned about playing in the division at that time, that's all that I could do.

And I learned so much because I played underneath Ernest Byner.

And that's where I learned much of my trade -- from Ernest Byner at that time. With him being older; playing in so many different eras of football, you know, it really made me feel like I was a better player.

PRO FORECAST: Your entire experience with the Ravens brings me back to something we touched on earlier -- the way you overcome barriers. Even more impressive, you do so with remarkable maturity -- and of course, a lot of will. No matter what anyone says, Priest Holmes isn't going away.

PRIEST HOLMES: That's right. I'm not going away. And a lot of that has to do with just how I was raised; my faith, believing in Christ. Just knowing that I can rely not just on my own will, my own strength; but I can also pray. So, a lot of that has to do with just what I believe; my belief system.

PRO FORECAST: And there were no feelings that Brian Billick had something against you? It was basically just the situation, your size. Do you hold that against him at all?

PRIEST HOLMES: No I really don't. Because, you know, he has to make his decisions as a head coach. And he's responsible for whatever decisions he makes.

So, I felt no sorrow when I had my opportunity to leave Baltimore. I was already ready to go and I wasn't looking back. Because there was so much more that I was going to be able to achieve by getting out of that situation.

That situation was limited. And it wasn't going to be a place I could thrive as a player. So it really didn't work out.

PRO FORECAST: Once again, a very mature outlook. But doesn't your experience in Baltimore still motivate you? Do you think back and remember this is where I was versus this is where I am or want to be?

PRIEST HOLMES: It really does. I remember my first year in the league. I stayed in an apartment with no furniture; all by myself. I said: 'If I'm going to make this thing work, I'm going up here by myself. I'm going to show my commitment.'

I went to Baltimore with no vehicle, no furniture. You could have called me a nomad at the time. And I pretty much made due with what I had and I really focused in and wouldn't allow the whole mentality of getting into the league and then losing your whole moral base and forgetting everything that you've been taught and making so many wrong decisions.

I'm not saying I made all the right decisions. But during that time, that's what I did. I was committed to playing football and I eliminated so many distractions. Hey, if you don't have to look for furniture, that's another distraction you don't have to worry about.

PRO FORECAST: Okay, moving forward. It's the spring of 2001; you're a free agent. You could have stayed in Baltimore and backed up Lewis as the Ravens defended their Super Bowl title. Or you could have gone to Philadelphia as a fairly high-priced insurance policy for Duce Staley. But you chose the Chiefs. Why Kansas City?

PRIEST HOLMES: I chose Kansas City first of all, because Philadelphia just didn't make sense. They wanted me to come in and pretty much produce the same thing I would have produced in Kansas City -- but not be recognized as that type of back by playing behind Duce Staley.

That just didn't work.

I then put together about 15 goals. Kansas City met 13 of them.

PRO FORECAST: In fact, you said at the time: "I wrote down goals on a piece of paper and matched them up to this situation. ... I compared the teams to the goals, and KC came out on top."

PRIEST HOLMES: There you go. It made sense. I went to Philadelphia; I went to Cleveland; I went to all these other different teams and you know, they were only reading out about maybe five or six goals. And it really wasn't worth the effort on my part to go there and be in a situation where I know I wasn't going to be happy.

I came to Kansas City and they opened the doors to me; they met 13 of the 15. You know, that's a no-brainer, that's where you're going to be. It actually allowed me to be closer to my family also, getting away from the East coast, so I'm really glad about that.

PRO FORECAST: You were the last free agent back signed that year; was that a disappointment or did it have more to do with your patience and desire to find the best opportunity possible?

PRIEST HOLMES: It was a combination of things. Dick Vermeil called me up personally, which had never happened in my life; a head coach calling me -- except high school. You know, they don't call after that. Dick Vermeil called me up and he says 'Priest, I want you as my running back.' I said, 'Coach. I want to do that.'

He asked me: 'What are you doing right now.' I said, 'Hey, I'm going out and seeing these different teams.'

He said, 'Trust me. I want you to be the man. We want to get Trent Green signed; when we get Trent Green signed, then you're coming right behind him. Because we want you all as a duo.'

I said: 'No problem.'

I stopped everything I was doing; prayed about it; and then come April of that year, they signed Trent Green and then they called me up. I was actually at my mother's house when they called. I picked up the cell and boom, I'm on my way to Kansas City.

PRO FORECAST: Does the fact that it still comes up -- for instance, the fact that I'm asking you about being the last guy signed -- is that still a motivational thing for you?

PRIEST HOLMES: No. That's not really the motivation. If you ask some of the guys around here -- like our strength coach, he always kids me. He says, 'Priest, they made you wait until the last five minutes before your plane was ready to leave before they offered to sign you up.'

We always joke about that, but really my motivation wasn't just the fact that I was the last free agent, my motivation came from the fact that I knew that once I got out of the situation that I felt that had handcuffs on me in Baltimore, that I got into a situation that was going to give me the opportunity to be the type of back I am. Not force me to be a big back and run between the holes and ask me to take on these linebackers.

PRO FORECAST: And they have certainly done that.

PRIEST HOLMES: Right. I can do what you want me to do, but it's a lot better when you ask me, 'Priest, what do you want to run?' That's what I got here.

PRO FORECAST: Which brings us back to something you mentioned earlier. ... You show up in KC, go through your first mini-camp the last week of April, and Dick Vermeil is asked what your role in the offense would be that year. His reply was: "None of this will fully define itself until we get in full pads and go through training camp and get into the preseason games. If there's one clearly better, he'll carry the load. The other one gives him a breather if he needs it.

"I think we've added a high-quality football player. I think he brings a lot to the table and will be very tough to beat out. But if it happens, it happens. That will only make us a better football team."

Based on everything we know now, it's easy to say, "What was Vermeil thinking?" But what were you thinking at that point -- what were your expectations?

PRIEST HOLMES: My thing was that, they have no idea what's getting ready to happen here (laughing). The thing that I liked about the situation was that Tony Gonzalez was here. He was the man. He was the guy getting all the attention.

So, I really felt that getting on the field on Sunday, no one is really going to know what was going to happen with me because they weren't going to be expecting it. They were going to be looking at Tony Gonzalez. You know, he had been an All-Pro guy at the time so, I really felt confident that by the time they realized what I've done it was going to be too late and I'd have already made a name for myself.

PRO FORECAST: And I think they do realize it now. In an interview last May, offensive coordinator Al Saunders said: "Every time I make my mortgage payment, I think about it. No offense to my wife and kids, but [Holmes] is the most important guy in my life!"

What do you think when you hear that?

PRIEST HOLMES: (Laughs) Well I always kid around; I always tell everybody you know, one of my main goals about being here is that I'm not playing good football unless I'm putting money in the hands of everybody here on the team.

So, whenever I feel that I'm thriving; I'm rushing for 100 yards a game; I'm making two or three touchdowns a game, I feel that I'm benefiting everybody here and that monetarily they're going to be rewarded.

If it works for the players, it works for the coaches, too.

PRO FORECAST: Now. ... Getting back to something we touched on earlier -- just to make sure I have it right. You led the league in rushing in 2001 and were doing the same again in 2002 until going down awkwardly on the tail end of a 56-yard run against the Broncos in Week 14 injuring your hip. ... And your first thought was how big a 2003 you could have?

PRIEST HOLMES: That was my first thought -- besides the fact that there was a little pain that I was saying 'Ouch' from; You know, I was saying 'Ouch' but at the same time I was setting goals because I didn't realize how close I was right before the injury.

PRO FORECAST: I remember watching that play and thinking the worst. How serious did you think the injury was then?

PRIEST HOLMES: Initially, I thought it was pretty bad. Because I know that the way that I had to walk back to our bench was an indication for me to know 'Okay this is a little bit worse than I may think."

I had to take very slow steps; I couldn't really stretch out while I was walking.

And I really felt. ... Just my balance was off; I really felt that if somebody came up and just tapped me on the shoulder or just changed my direction, I probably would have fallen over. Because of the fact the hip just wasn't supported at the time. It took great effort and concentration just to get back to the sidelines.

It was definitely serious.

PRO FORECAST: Despite that injury, you put up phenomenal numbers -- 1,615 yards rushing (2,287 total yards from scrimmage) with 24 touchdowns. And by scoring in 11 straight games, you tied the NFL record set almost 40 years earlier by Hall of Famer Lenny Moore.

In fact, I wrote the following in January of 2003: "We're all aware of the difference between NFL greatness and fantasy greatness, but you'd have to be crazy not to recognize Holmes' 2002 effort for what it was: one of the most impressive seasons ever by an NFL running back."

And I really meant that. ... Right up until last year, when you came back and made 2002 look like a warmup session. So the question is: With you, your teammates, coaches and the system already hitting on all cylinders, how much better can you get? How much more productivity can you realistically wring out of this offense?

PRIEST HOLMES: Well, I think that our timing could definitely be a lot better. And when I say timing, I mean the timing between the defense being on the field and our offense being on the field.

That's where we ran into a few problems (last year), where we may score too quickly and put the defense back on there and they're not rested up and they're not able to make that change or a necessary adjustment. Or the defense stops them on a three and out and we're not ready to go and put the ball in the end zone.

So, I just think our timing as a team needs to get better.

And offensively. ... I mean, we're tickin'. I mean, we've got some great players back there. We got Tony Gonzalez, who can argue him down as far as the things he does on the field. ... Jason Dunn, he's a great tight end and the No. 1 reason why I'm in the end zone.

PRO FORECAST: Really? So I guess you're happy he'll be back (an unrestricted free agent, Dunn re-signed with Kansas City in March)?

PRIEST HOLMES: I'm very happy. Because there was some talk about them not being able to come to an agreement. I was concerned about that because I know he's instrumental -- no matter what side he lines up on -- in flattening down and giving me the ability to turn that corner.

You need guys like that because they serve a particular role and they make this ball club go.

PRO FORECAST: All right Priest. Time for the stretch run. I'm going to run through a series of questions that will be of particular interest to Fantasy owners. Are you ready?

PRIEST HOLMES: Yeah. I'm up for that. ...

PRO FORECAST: What is your overall perception of Fantasy football?

PRIEST HOLMES: Where in the heck is all of this money coming from (laughing)?

PRO FORECAST: How closely do you follow individual statistics at your position during the season?

PRIEST HOLMES: Actually, I have a couple of buddies. And they fill me on what's going on. So I would say it's at least every week.

PRO FORECAST: At other positions?

PRIEST HOLMES: Just about every position I'll try to get a little update from my close friends.

PRO FORECAST: On the whole, how accurately do you believe the media portrays you as an individual and as a player?

PRIEST HOLMES: As a player. ... I love it. Because I have guys come up to me all the time saying 'Man, Holmes I thought you was a lot bigger.' Hey, it's fooling somebody.

As an individual. ... I think that sometimes they need to do some updated versions about what's going on. Because a lot of things have changed. Like my son for instance. My son now stays in Texas with his mother. So, those things have changed and there's a few interviews they should catch up on. ...

PRO FORECAST: How big a factor do you consider strength of schedule to be?

PRIEST HOLMES: Well, if you look at it this year, it's going to be a big part in it because everyone plays everyone. As far as all the good teams are playing. So, everyone is going to have an "L" this year it seems like. But it does factors in as far as the schedule; it really does. ...

PRO FORECAST: What player do you least like to see staring at you from across the line of scrimmage?

PRIEST HOLMES: The players I hate are the DBs that just all of the sudden want to be tacklers. Because there's a rap about all defensive backs: They don't like to tackle. So I hate when I see a defensive back that wants to come up and tackle.

PRO FORECAST: Is there a single player you most look forward to going up against in a one-on-one situation?

PRIEST HOLMES: I love going against Zach Thomas. I'm not going to lie. He's an old Southwest Conference guy.

PRO FORECAST: In terms of defenders, who talks the best trash?

PRIEST HOLMES: I have to go with my buddy Ray Lewis. He is the gift of gab. All you have to do though is turn your back and walk away; don't entertain it.

PRO FORECAST: The weakest trash? Oh man. ... There are a couple of guys out there; I can't say their names individually, but it's usually a DB (laughing).

PRO FORECAST: What NFL defender would you most like to blindside?

PRIEST HOLMES: It's no individual. It's every 300-pounder that's on the defensive line. All of them. I just want to clean them all up because they all get a chance to hit me during the day.

PRO FORECAST: What opposing coach has your number (scheme-wise)?

PRIEST HOLMES: I was thinking about that the other day. That would be. ... (pauses) I knew something was going to be funny when we played Marvin Lewis this past year. I knew it. I just had a feeling. I said, 'I know he knows me like the back of his hand.' Because we've been together so long. He did a good job.

PRO FORECAST: Since it would be hard not to pick yourself first, we're granting you the first two picks in a mock Fantasy draft; who do you take at No. 2 and why?

PRIEST HOLMES: Actually I wouldn't pick myself. ...

PRO FORECAST: You wouldn't pick yourself!?

PRIEST HOLMES: Well, I would but. ...

PRO FORECAST: I'm giving you the first two picks. C'mon now. ...

PRIEST HOLMES: Okay, I'm not going to pick myself. ... First two picks. ... I'm gonna pick (pause) Donovan McNabb -- you've gotta have a quarterback. ... And my second pick (long pause). ... Is going to be of course, a running back. I'm not going to pick myself. ... I would say (longer pause). ... This year coming up?


PRIEST HOLMES: I'm going to pick Clinton Portis.

PRO FORECAST: What offensive teammate is going to exceed our expectations this season? Who don't we know about?

PRIEST HOLMES: I think not any one particular person; it's going to be our entire wide receiver corps.

PRO FORECAST: Generally speaking, what percent of an NFL team's success is due to talent and what percent should be attributed to coaching/system?

PRIEST HOLMES: The system that we're in. ... I'd give the system we're in a good 35 percent.

PRO FORECAST: Your team has either drafted or signed a high-profile newcomer at your position. Is there any such thing as "friendly competition?"

PRIEST HOLMES: There is such a thing as friendly competition, but there's no such thing as friendly advice (laughing).

PRO FORECAST: What one word best describes your blocking ability?

PRIEST HOLMES: You said one word right? I'm trying to think of it. ... Matador (laughing).

PRO FORECAST: If you could be commissioner of the NFL for a day, what is the first thing you'd change?

PRIEST HOLMES: There's a thing called -- and I get fined for it every year -- leg whipping. I would end that rule. There would be no such thing as leg whipping.

PRO FORECAST: On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being not at all and 10 being critically, how important is team chemistry to your individual success in a given season?


PRO FORECAST: What head coach other than your current coach, would you like to play for?

PRIEST HOLMES: Hmm. ... (long pause) I actually would go to Dallas and play for "The Tuna."

PRO FORECAST: Is there an offensive coordinator you consider more innovative than the rest?

PRIEST HOLMES: I would have to say the offensive coordinator for the Indianapolis Colts (Tom Moore).

PRO FORECAST: How often does your quarterback have to tell you to shut up in the huddle during the course of an average game?

PRIEST HOLMES: Trent is always telling me 'Priest, we're about to break the huddle man; here's the play. ...' Because I'm always looking around. I'm looking in the stands; I'm looking at the billboard; I'm fixing my pads; I'm fixing my. ...

You know, because I'm always getting hit so stuff is getting loose on me.

So Trent is always telling me, trying to get my attention to pay attention. Because we're getting ready for the play. Because I'm like two yards away from the doggone huddle so yeah. ... It's every, every, every Sunday he's talking to me.

PRO FORECAST: And finally, tell me about your foundation.

PRIEST HOLMES: We're getting started for 2004. We've coming with our new line of Team Priest gear and what they can do is stay tuned. They're going to hear about it.

PRO FORECAST: There you have it, Priest Holmes; that's all I have. Thanks for the time. Once again, you've exceeded all expectations.

Our latest Cheat Sheets updated constantly through September.

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