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Vermeil's friends rally around him

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) - Since his Kansas City Chiefs fell to 0-3, Dick Vermeil has gotten phone calls and e-mails sending words of encouragement.

He's heard from Hollywood types, a renowned geologist and a former NBA All-Star, as well several others who played for him during a coaching career that began in 1959.

"I get calls from all over the country, from different guys who know me and have been through this kind of routine with me," Vermeil said Tuesday. "We all need a little pumping-up from time to time. I need it."

Fred Dryer, the former NFL star who had the lead role in the television series "Hunter," told him, "Coach, stick in there. I know you can get this thing going."

Charles Barkley, who became friends with Vermeil when he was playing for the Philadelphia 76ers, called to offer his support.

So did Claude Humphrey, who played defensive end on Vermeil's Eagles teams of 1979-81 and left a message on his answering machine.

"Coach, don't change," the message said. "Don't let them get you. Stick with your way. It's always worked before and it will work now."

Perhaps no sentiment meant more to the old coach than the e-mail he got from Bobby Christopherson, the captain on the Hillsdale High School team in San Mateo, Calif., in 1960. That was Vermeil's first head-coaching job.

"He writes the leading textbooks in geology right now in the country," Vermeil said. "I've got his textbooks. They're way beyond me."

Vermeil said it is reassuring "to know that people who have gone through the adversity with you in the past still believe the way you did it was the right way to do it."

The road doesn't get any easier for the Chiefs, who play at Baltimore on Monday night. Their next four opponents are a combined 10-2.

"I've lost eight in a row before. I've gone from 0-8 in division play to 8-0 and world championship in a one-year turnaround," said Vermeil, who coached his 200th NFL game Sunday. "I've seen both sides."

Compounding the disappointment of an 0-3 start for a team coming off a 13-3 season have been some game-management miscues on Vermeil's part. Joking that "early dementia" may be setting in, he admitted he made a few mistakes in the last two games.

The mistakes and the losses have brought heavy criticism from fans and media.

"If you don't develop some toughness and some resolve within yourself, then you're in the wrong business," he said. "But to me it starts with my commitment to my players."

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