The Chiefs spent the winter chasing quarterbacks the way Don Draper chases flight attendants. Take it personally? If you're Matt Cassel, how could you not?
"The Kansas City Chiefs were very open with me," Cassel, the franchise's starting signal-caller, said Tuesday in his first group interview since the Chiefs' very public courtship of Peyton Manning. "(General manager) Scott Pioli and everybody (were) open about the fact that they were going to reach out to Peyton.
"I don't take any disrespect (from) it. Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning. He's one of the best quarterbacks ever to play this game. So how can you take disrespect from that? The fact is, he didn't end up here. And we're going to be competing against him twice a year, which will be fun. And I'm looking forward to the competition."
Cassel smiled cheerily as he spoke at the Chiefs' practice facility, trying to keep the spin forward. The sunny disposition never wavered, even as he was asked time and again about his bosses sticking a knife in his back.
"I appreciate the fact that they communicated with me, that they didn't want me to find out from somebody else," Cassel said.
"And the great part about Scott and everybody here is everybody's always seeking, at any position, to go out and bring in the best player. And I understand that Peyton Manning is one of the best players in the game. And so, again, they took a look at him, he didn't end up here, and it'll be fun to compete against him."
From the Manning Sweepstakes (which Denver won) to the sudden infatuation with Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, a recurring theme keeps bubbling on Arrowhead Drive: They may like Matt Cassel Pioli said exactly that on Monday, twice for emphasis but they sure as hell don't love him.
When a reporter asked if the additions of running back Peyton Hillis, tackle Eric Winston and tight end Kevin Boss would help make life easier for Cassel, the general manager replied: "This isn't about improving our roster around Matt Cassel. This is about improving our roster.
"This isn't the Matt Cassel Show. This is the Kansas City Chiefs. This is about having 53 good players that are going to help you win football games."
And there was this, from coach Romeo Crennel: "The good teams I've been on, if you don't bring in good players, they're (expletive) off. I mean, the veterans are (expletive) off that you don't try to make your team better if you don't like competition, then you're
in the wrong business. Because every Sunday is a competition."
OK, then. Gauntlet thrown. Gauntlet received.
"I think as a quarterback in the NFL, you have to have that mentality each and every day, with not only the people in your room, but just with yourself," said Cassel, who's started 39 games for the Chiefs over the past three seasons, winning 18. "Because the minute you start becoming lackadaisical, the minute you start maybe not studying as hard and doing that, then it catches up to you."
If the point was to light a fire under Cassel's backside, it worked. Even though the off-season program is only a few days old, the California native is officially in a cramming mode. There's a new offensive coordinator (Brian Daboll, his former wide receivers coach at New England), a new backup (Brady Quinn), a new playbook, a new batch of terminology and the same old expectations.
"It gives you something to do when you go home at night," Cassel chuckled. "You know, you're siting there, you put the kids to bed. And the wife's got the flash cards out last night, and we're going through it, and I'm going, I hope he's not quizzing tomorrow.'"
The sore right hand the one Cassel injured last November 13, the one that ended his 2011 campaign is coming along fine. As for the bruises on the ego, well, we'll see.
"Every off-season, you go into with an open mind," Cassel continued. "Whoever comes in here, we'll embrace them. And competition, again, just makes people better. And it's about the room. And if you can get quality guys in the quarterback room and we can push each other and make each other better, then that's what it's all about."
Having already signed Quinn to go with Cassel and Ricky Stanzi, Pioli stressed earlier this week that he'd like to toss a fourth signal-caller into the mix. If the Chiefs really like do Matt Cassel, they sure have a funny way of showing it.
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org