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Will Shields has regrets but not what you'd think

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Former Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Will Shields will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 8. I have done a few recent interviews with Shields and between now and his induction I’ll share some of his thoughts on various subjects.

I asked Shields whether he had any regrets about his playing career, which began in 1993 with him being a third-round draft pick and ended after the 2006 season. I expected him to say the Chiefs’ failure to make a Super Bowl during his 14 seasons and perhaps that he retired too soon. Shields made his 12th Pro Bowl appearance after his final NFL season.

But his answer was neither. He took a philosophical approach to the Chiefs’ failure to reach a Super Bowl. They advanced as far as the AFC Championship Game during his rookie season but still haven’t won a playoff game since.

“The [failure to reach the] Super Bowl is not a regret,’’ he said. “To me, it’s more or less it just didn’t happen. We did the best we could. We got as far as we could. It just wasn’t meant to be. You can only control what you can control.’’

Shields was still a capable player when he retired. But the Chiefs were headed at the time into a massive overhaul and Shields could see the bad times coming. Indeed, the Chiefs won just 10 games during the three seasons after Shields’ retirement.

“It was a good time for me to retire,’’ he said. “I could have continued to play, but I don’t think I would have been happy playing for the team we were putting together at that point. We were going young and I was too old to go young again. Those next few seasons would have been basically hell for me. I didn’t want to be that guy holding on and going through aches and pains and everything else you had going on not to have [winning seasons].’’

He instead retired, staying in the Kansas City area and retreating into the business world. Among Shields’ endeavors are his Will to Succeed Foundation, his ownership of an area fitness club and a part-ownership of a local bank.

He said he did regret not being more of a vocal leader during his seasons with the Chiefs. Shields is quiet by nature and was more of a by-example mentor for many of his teammates.

“Maybe I should have pulled guys along when I felt we were faltering,’’ Shields said. “I was being revered as a leader so maybe I should have been more vocal.

“I think maybe taking more of a leadership role in a couple of those seasons would have made a little bit of a difference. Maybe not a lot of difference because you can’t affect 53 guys. But if I could affect the 10 or 12 that could have reached everyone else, that’s maybe what I should have done.’’