KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Shawn Barber is standing statue-still in the Kansas City Chiefs' locker room after a recent home game against the Chicago Bears. In the flurry of chaotic activity -- players dressing, reporters bouncing from locker to locker collecting quotes, equipment guys trying to put everything in order -- he can be easy to miss, or at least as easy to miss as a 6-foot-2, 240-pound former Chiefs linebacker can be.
Barber himself doesn’t miss much. He’s keeping vigil as one of the NFL’s two uniform inspectors at every Arrowhead Stadium game. Another former Chiefs player, offensive lineman Ricky Siglar, is the other.
Part of their job is to be in the locker rooms, Barber for the Chiefs and Siglar for their opponents, up to 90 minutes after each game, making sure players don’t conduct interviews wearing unlicensed apparel.
After the Bears game, Barber spies Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce being interviewed wearing an Air Jordan ball cap, which may be against league policy.
Barber motions for Kelce to remove the hat, but the player doesn’t see Barber because of the glare of the lights from a TV camera.
The incident may go in the report Barber and Siglar will file with the NFL. The league may fine players for a variety of infractions in their report, from not wearing their socks high enough, to not wearing their knee pads properly, to wearing unlicensed apparel.
Barber is a rookie uniform cop, having just started this year. Siglar is the veteran, having worked the games at Arrowhead for 10 years. Siglar indicated that the report sent back to the league is never empty and always contains multiple violations.
“Always," Siglar said. “It would be nice to not actually find anything, but even when I’m at home, watching on TV, I see stuff all the time."
Siglar used to work the Arrowhead games by himself. The league decided this year that the job was too big for one person and added a second pair of eyes in Barber.
“I used to be the Lone Ranger," Siglar said. “But there are a lot of things to look for. You can’t see it all."
Siglar and Barber will try. It’s no coincidence the veteran gets the road team and the rookie the home team.
“Players try to get away with more on the road than they do at home," Siglar said.
Players from both the Chiefs and Bears are aware of Barber and Siglar and what they do. They’re the guys who can get them fined.
"Some guys have been fined $100,000-plus in a season. I guess in this day and age with the kind of salaries they have now, it must not be considered much money. I find it foolish to throw money away just for something as simple as [not] wearing your uniform the way you're supposed to wear it." Ricky Siglar, NFL uniform inspector
But generally, players don’t have much to say to them.
“I’ve had players walk past me before a game and say, ‘I’m good,'" Siglar said. “And usually I’ll tell them, ‘No, you’re not.’ I’ll tell them what they need to fix. I really don’t want to be the bad guy, the guy that writes them up. I try to work with them, give them some warnings. Some guys do respond, some guys just shrug it off. Some guys get fined once and they see the light. Some guys just don’t care.
“Some guys have been fined $100,000-plus in a season. I guess in this day and age with the kind of salaries they have now, it must not be considered much money. I find it foolish to throw money away just for something as simple as [not] wearing your uniform the way you’re supposed to wear it."
Barber, 40, last played with the Chiefs recently enough, in 2005, that he was teammates with current linebacker Derrick Johnson and punter Dustin Colquitt. He is familiar with other players through his work with the Chiefs’ alumni group.
“I don’t think they look at me as being against them or being something that’s bad for them," Barber said. “I don’t think most guys even pay attention to the uniform [inspector]. I mean, they know the uniform rules. Everybody learns the uniform rules when they’re a rookie, so when I write them up I’m not writing them up for something they don’t know about.
“I don’t think too many guys adjust the way they look just because I’m there."
Indeed, players sometimes willingly accept the fine.
“They give you multiple warnings before they fine you, so if you get fined it’s because you’re stubborn and you don’t want to change something," Chiefs wide receiver Jason Avant said. “I know guys that get fined $5,000 a game because that’s the way they want to look.
“That’s stupid to me. I don’t want to give my money away like that. I work too hard for it."
Avant, in his 10th NFL season, has also played for Philadelphia and Carolina. He said he’s never been fined for a uniform violation, but he has been warned.
“I’ve been warned for the Nike [swoosh] showing on my socks," he said. “I’ve been warned about my socks being too low. I’ve been warned about not enough white showing on my socks. But I’ve always fixed whatever the problem is. I don’t want those guys looking for me. If you get warned a lot, you go on a list, and the guy at the next game is looking for you. You don’t want that."
Siglar and Barber arrive at each game two hours before kickoff. They’ll split their time between the press box atop Arrowhead and the sideline. They’re always on the sideline during warm-ups. That’s when they issue warnings to players to fix whatever uniform violations they might have before the game starts.
Siglar and Barber both have regular jobs. Siglar is a youth counselor and mentor at Gillis House, a Kansas City facility that assists troubled children and their families. Barber is an assistant coach for the Brooklyn Bolts, a team in the developmental FXFL, the Fall Experimental Football League.
They get paid for their work at Arrowhead -- “It puts a little gas in the car," Siglar said -- but mostly they work as uniform cops because they want to stay connected in some way to the NFL. They had to go through training at the league office before getting these jobs.
As former NFL players, though, both already knew the uniform rules. Both said they were never fined for violations as players.
“Never," Siglar said. “I was a lineman. Linemen don’t care about style points or looking all pretty. We go out there to play. I’m not pointing fingers at any position, but typically I find most infractions are with -- put this in quotes -- ‘the skill positions.’ The pretty boys, if you will. I’ve talked to some of those guys. They take the whole Deion Sanders point of view: ‘If you look good, you feel good. If you feel good, you play good.’ They’re more image-conscious."
Siglar sounds like a tough guy, but both he and Barber said they consider themselves to be lenient regarding violations. Both indicated that as former players, they understand uniforms can be altered and equipment knocked out of whack by the contact that takes place on an NFL field.
So it was that Barber, after some consideration, left Kelce and his Air Jordan hat out of the report he and Siglar filed from the Bears game. He might have a warning for Kelce about it another time, but the player won’t get fined for this incident.
“It seemed to me that the reporters caught him as he was about to leave," Barber said. “He grabbed his hat to leave and kind of got asked to say a couple of words. I'm not interested in that. I'm interested in the guys who put on the hat because they want to market something."