Chiefs' Rookie Morris Travels Light

Thursday, September 21st 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Sylvester Morris is truly a man with no baggage.

Kansas City's sensational rookie receiver is empty of pretense and full of humble, unassuming self-confidence.

``It's just football,'' said the first-round pick from Jackson State, the leading receiver among NFL rookies. ``I've been catching footballs since I was a little kid.''

When he stepped onto the team plane for an overnight trip to Tampa Bay during the preseason, he had his toothbrush in one pocket, a change of underwear in the other pocket and his playbook in his hand.

No baggage.

``We were only gone for one night,'' he said matter-of-factly. ``I put everything in my pocket. I didn't feel like carrying no suitcase.''

Morris' simple, unaffected ways have impressed coaches and teammates almost as much as the quickness and leaping ability that enabled the lanky New Orleans native to catch three touchdown passes against San Diego.

``He's a country kid in the big city,'' coach Gunther Cunningham said. ``It's really refreshing to get that kind of a player.''

Backup quarterback Warren Moon has seen and thrown to a lot of great receivers in his 18 years in the NFL, and loves what he sees in Morris.

``It will be up to Sylvester how good he wants to be,'' Moon said.

``He's so laid-back and down to earth and seems so humble. I don't think he really understands what he did on Sunday, scoring three touchdowns as a rookie against a good defense. It didn't seem to faze him that much, and that's good.''

So what's a first-round draft pick supposed to be doing, Morris asks with a shrug.

``I'm just doing what is expected of me,'' he said.

Going into Sunday's game at Denver, he has 12 catches for a team-leading 214 yards.

``They drafted me to come out and catch the football. And I've tried to catch every one that's been thrown to me,'' he said.

In the 42-10 victory over the Chargers on Sunday, he caught three of Elvis Grbac's five touchdown passes, on three different types of routes.

The most spectacular was the third catch, a 20-yarder for which he stretched out his full 6-foot-3 and leaped into the air like an NBA forward soaring above the rim for a rebound.

Two smaller defensive backs just stood and watched, helpless to stop him.

``Catch the balls and get open. It's no different from day one,'' Morris said. ``You've just got to go play football.''

It all seems to be coming so easily.

``The playbook is a lot more difficult than I could ever imagine,'' he said. ``I just have to go out and play football. I have a great coach in (offensive coordinator) Jimmy Raye and all the veteran guys do a great job helping me.

``Other than that, it's just playing football.''

In the regular season, Cunningham likes his players to wear a coat and tie on road trips. So Morris does what he has to do.

``My mama came and brought my suitcase up,'' he said. ``And since I have to wear a suit, I'm going to have stuff all over the place.''