KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -Like the cavalry, Damon Huard always arrives just in the nick of time.
The always-agreeable career backup will once again put down his clipboard and pick up his helmet Sunday when Kansas City hosts Oakland. With Brodie Croyle sidelined by a shoulder injury, Huard will be coming in for an injured Chiefs quarterback for the third time in three years.
He'll do so after getting almost no practice snaps throughout spring and summer drills. Huard played so sparingly in the preseason, many people assumed the 12-year veteran had dropped to third-string behind Tyler Thigpen amid the youth-oriented rebuilding movement that's turned the Chiefs into the youngest team in the league.
But when Croyle went down against New England last week, it was Huard who came off the bench and came within a whisker of pulling out a win. And it'll be Huard who makes the start against the Raiders.
``You try to be a pro,'' he said. ``Your opportunity comes to play, you try to make the most of it.''
in a reliable 12-year career that's seen him back up Dan Marino in Miami and Tom Brady in New England, he's always been ready.
``He's a pro,'' coach Herm Edwards said. ``That's what's great about him. This guy's always prepared, always ready to play.''
Not getting any ``reps'' in all the spring workouts and minicamps did not bother him, Huard insists.
``You're foolish if you don't prepare,'' he said. ``Maybe physically I didn't get as many snaps. But I felt comfortable out there (on Sunday).''
With the Patriots crippled by the loss of Brady, Huard almost led the Chiefs to a most improbable victory. He hit a touchdown pass to keep them back in the game and then connected with Devard Darling on a cross-country catch-and-run that brought them all the way to the New England 5 with less than a minute left.
If Dwayne Bowe had not dropped Huard's fade pass in the end zone, the Chiefs might have had the upset of the season.
``If you are a backup quarterback (who is) going to play at some point during the season, sometimes it's best if it's early,'' Huard said. ``You are coming off training camp, coming off playing in a few preseason games.
``Granted, it wasn't much.''
Also granted is the fact Huard is paid well for his services. He signed a three-year contract in 2007 that will average $2.5 million per season.
e is out remains to be seen. But Huard will have the full confidence of coaches and players who have never seen him sleepwalk through a practice or nod off during a meeting.
``He's been around a long time and there's a reason he's been around a long time,'' tight end Tony Gonzalez said. ``It's not just about his being able to go out there and play quarterback. He's got a good attitude. He's always ready. He knows how to prepare. He'll do well, no doubt about it.''
When Trent Green was knocked unconscious in the 2006 opener, Huard went 5-3 while starting the next eight games, laying the foundation for a season that went all the way to the playoffs.
Of course, Green was back under center the minute doctors cleared him. The same will be true with Croyle. Regardless of how well Huard does, he has virtually no chance to remain the starter.
``It's the direction we're headed in,'' Edwards said. ``We've invested a lot in Brodie. We want to see what he can do. He has to play. We want him to play. If Damon wins games, that's great. That gives us some momentum. We'll cross that bridge. But when Brodie's back, he needs to go back in there and play.''
It's not even worth discussing, Huard says.
``Everyone wants to talk about the future here. Honestly, it kind of gets old. So let's just worry about the Raiders on Sunday.''
es in the NFL, will also play while Croyle is out.
Again, Huard says, it doesn't matter.
``This is more of less (his role) for most of my career, coming off the bench, going in there and filling in when need be,'' he said.
``Everybody wants to be the starter, but for some reason or another, that hasn't materialized.''

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