Waters' legacy lives on through Albert in KC

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Guard Brian Waters made five trips to the Pro Bowl when he played for the Chiefs. He left abruptly prior to the 2011 season when Waters decided he couldn’t play any longer for then coach Todd Haley and asked for his release. The Chiefs, who had young Jon Asamoah waiting to get into their lineup, obliged him with his release.

Waters returns to play in Kansas City for the first time since on Sunday when the Cowboys are at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs have had two mostly miserable seasons since the departure of Waters and while it’s a stretch to say one development directly caused the other, it’s not to say that the loss of Waters, a good player and strong locker room leader, was a factor in the Chiefs’ decline.

Waters was a link to the great offensive lines of the early 2000s, when the Chiefs had Hall of Famer Willie Roaf at left tackle and an eventual Hall of Famer, Will Shields, at right guard. When Waters departed Kansas City, he left a legacy behind.

Branden Albert was struggling to establish himself as a competent NFL left tackle during Waters’ final seasons in Kansas City. He has finally arrived at that point, but may not have gotten there without a nudge or two and some wisdom in the early years of his career from Waters.

“He was a great teammate and you can’t say enough about what he did for me back then," Albert said. “He taught me to stay within myself, not try to do anything extraordinary, that I could only be the player I was supposed to be.’’

Albert is now the senior member of a young offensive line. At 28 and in his sixth NFL season, Albert is not old or experienced enough to be viewed by teammates as a sage, but his fellow linemen have no better source for advice.

So he’s trying to fill Waters’ old role as mentor for younger linemen, including rookie Eric Fisher, the right tackle and the first pick in the NFL draft. In doing so, Albert often considers the advice he received from Waters.

“I hated to see Brian leave," Albert said. “It’s something he had to do. That’s the nature of the business. I’m happy for him. He’s a great player, a great mentor, a heck of a player. The fact he gets to play in his hometown, Dallas, I’m happy for him. Hopefully he can contend for a title.’’