Grbac Feels Chiefs Are His Team

Thursday, July 27th 2000, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

RIVER FALLS, Wis. (AP) — Four years after arriving in Kansas City, Elvis Grbac finally feels at home.

The lanky quarterback enjoyed a much-needed breakthrough campaign in 1999, and it shows in the way he walks and and talks.

While going about the daily rigors of training camp, he seems to carry an enhanced air of authority — to exude a greater aura of confidence.

Kansas City might have a championship-level quarterback in his prime for the first time since Len Dawson was leading the Chiefs to victory in Super Bowl IV.

``His whole demeanor has changed,'' said head coach Gunther Cunningham. ``He's more relaxed. He's more in control. He's not pressing as much to win players or coaches over or anybody else. I think he knows he's pretty good and now he's got to take the next step and lead the team to the promised land.''

Finally breaking a two-year injury jinx, Grbac was one of only eight NFL quarterbacks in 1999 to start every one of his team's games. His numbers were good as he hit 294 of 499 passes for 3,389 yards and 22 touchdowns, and his 15 interceptions were among the lowest total of any passer in the AFC.

``It's his turn to take over. He's done a good job of that,'' said 11-year veteran center Tim Grunhard.

Grbac feels ready.

``It's my eighth year in the league and it's just that time,'' he said.

``When you get to this position and you've had a chance to be here for four years and being able to get to be around these guys and them knowing who I am and what I can do, they understand me.''

Going through an entire season injury-free was important for Grbac's self confidence as well as his standing among his peers. He missed six games in 1997 with a broken collarbone and sat out eight in 1998, partly because of a shoulder injury and partly because he was benched in favor of Rich Gannon.

Grbac senses his changed status.

``Maybe it was playing 16 games last year and playing well, having the ability to be there every day for them. Maybe it's four years up and down, the good times and the bad,'' he said.

``It's just very comfortable and they feel comfortable with me.''

Bonding with teammates is something Grbac has worked hard on. During the offseason, he bought first-class plane tickets and treated a number of players, including Grunhard, to a hunting trip to south Texas.

``That was something I always wanted to do,'' he said. ``You get to know somebody when you get away from the game. They know exactly where I'm coming from now.''

``Now, they got to see the person away from football and enjoying life and relaxing. It made our relationship a lot stronger.''

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