We don’t know much about Tyler Palko, the man who is taking over as the Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback Monday night at New England.
Palko, 28, has thrown just 13 passes in regular-season action since coming into the NFL in 2007. Six of those passes were thrown Sunday after starter Matt Cassel suffered a hand injury that will keep him out for an extended period of time.
While Palko is green as an NFL player, the former standout at Pittsburgh does know how to handle himself in an interview. In what had to be his first NFL conference call with an opposing team’s media, Palko was on his toes with Boston-area reporters Wednesday.
If Palko is as poised against the Patriots as he was in his media session, the Chiefs will have a fighting chance. Here is a taste of his session with New England reporters, courtesy of the Patriots’ PR department:
Q: You’ve been a lot of places and mostly under the radar. How long have you waited for this chance? How long does it feel like?
TP: What is it, my fifth year? So five years, I guess. I don’t know. I guess it’s been a long time coming, but I guess when you’re really entrenched in it, you really don’t think about how long it is. You set a goal and my goal was to be a starter in the NFL, and I’m getting my opportunity right now. When you set a goal, I guess the way I was raised, you don’t really worry about … just focus on the process and trying to get better every day. That’s really the only thing I’ve tried to focus on. I’m not saying it’s been easy because it hasn’t, but if it’s something that you want to do and you want it bad enough, then you’re going to do anything you can to stick around.
Q: The guy you’re replacing took over for someone who was injured and basically earned a huge contract. The guy you’re facing on Monday was really the same type of story 10 years ago. Do you think about the position you’re in and what this could actually do for your career?
TP: That’s nice for you guys to talk about, all that stuff, but you can’t write the story before it’s written. It’s obviously comparisons and all that other stuff, but that’s not going to win the game – because it’s aligning this way or it’s not aligning this way. Right now, my job is to go out and to give our team a chance to win. I don’t have enough time to think about all that stuff, and if you’re thinking about playing for a contract or playing because you’re facing a guy that it happened [to] or the guy that you’re replacing this happened to him and it’s going to happen to me, then you’re really taking your focus off what’s really important and that’s the game plan. And the task at hand is to try to beat the Patriots and it’s a heck of a task for us. Everybody on the team that night is going to need to be locked in and focused on one goal and that’s winning the football game because these guys that we’re facing on Monday night, they’re no slouch. They’re a great football team and the reason why they’re the New England Patriots is because they’ve done it over a long period of time.
Q: You were cut by the California Redwoods (OF the UFL). Was that the lowest point of your professional career?
TP: I don’t know. It really was just something that happened and you kind of keep plugging along. Things don’t always go the way you want them to go in your career. I don’t think anybody, at least the way I was raised, you’re not too good to be brought down to Earth or to get fired. They play football there too and for whatever reason the coaching staff chose to do that. I don’t really look at it as a low point in my career. It’s a process. I’m not a big quote guy, but this thing is a marathon not a sprint and sometimes you have to scrape the bottom before you can reap some benefits. Getting cut anytime, getting fired is not a positive experience, whether it was by them or by an NFL team. It’s not a positive experience.
Q: Just looking back, when you were in college Joe Flacco transferred because of you and he comes in and starts right away while you had to wait five years. My question is, isn’t life really weird sometimes?
TP: I guess. You guys do a good job of putting those stories together – the feel good stories or the make-you-feel-bad stories. I don’t really look at it that way. It’s football and there’s no blueprint on anything. Whether you want to be a teacher, a garbage man, whatever you want to do – there’s no blueprint on getting where you want to go. There are obstacles, there’s adversity you need to overcome and it’s just the way that life is. Anyone that has ever accomplished anything great has had to overcome some obstacles, whether it’s at the highest level in the NFL or like I said, whether it’s being a garbage man. I don’t know. You would have to ask other people. But everybody in life has to overcome their own adversity and their own personal struggles. You can never really knock anyone’s struggle on how they’ve gotten there, why they got to the situation you’re in. I can’t explain it. I don’t sit back and try to make sense of everything. You live your life a certain way and you work hard and try to do good for other people and whatever happens along that line, you control those certain things you can control. Everything else kind of works out, either good or bad and you have to deal with it on either end.
Q: Do you think there’s an advantage for you that Romeo Crennel and Bill Belichick have very similar defensive philosophies? Do you think it helps that you get to practice against Romeo’s defense?
TP: I don’t think this is really any advantage for me going into this thing. I have enough chips stacked up against me. I don’t think there was only one way to run defense when Bill was there and when Bill and Romeo were on the staff. They have different teams and they’ve done different things. I don’t think there’s really any advantage to that.
Q: You seem to have a really clear mind and positive outlook on everything that has happened with you. Where does all that come from? Where do you draw your inspiration?
TP: It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. I’m not saying I’ve never had a bad day. But as you get older and you go through things and you experience life I think you just learn how to handle situations differently. I’m sure that I’ll handle things differently in five years from now and look back on how I handled certain situations and learn from them. Everything is a work in progress. Again, I don’t want to sound like a quote book, but you just try to take everything day-by-day. You’re not guaranteed anything today; you have to earn everything you get. That’s pretty much how I attack everything -- with a tough mentality of going at it with as much as you can and getting up the next day and doing the same thing over again. It’s just the way I was raised, I guess, and the way I try to look at it.
Often, NFL players are uptight and not forthcoming in situations like these. Kudos to Palko for having a sense of humor and for taking the time to answer these questions in what is the most harried week of his football career.