KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Dwayne Bowe just finished one of the worst statistical seasons of his career, one in which the Chiefs' freshly minted $56 million receiver took a backseat to the No. 1 running back when it came to both catches, targets, yards and touchdowns.
Yet, teammates and coaches have consistently raved about Bowe's unselfishness, and while his diminished production may have led some to believe he is, perhaps, on the downside of his career at 29, there are respected football men who still believe in his talent.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock, who called the Chiefs' 45-44 first-round playoff loss to the Colts for NBC, is one of them.
"He's a big-bodied receiver that, when focused, ought to catch 80 or 90 passes a year," Mayock said. "There's no doubt . . . he still has the ability. He's going into his eighth year. He should have two or three really solid years left."
Mayock, of course, had the pleasure of watching Bowe terrorize the Colts in person during what was easily his best game of the season, as he caught eight passes for 150 yards and one touchdown. You can argue the Chiefs turned to him out of necessity, thanks to injuries to star runner Jamaal Charles and No. 2 receiver Donnie Avery, but Bowe prefers to think he rose to the occasion when his number was called.
"I think when Jamaal went down, we had to change our game plan (from running) to passing," Bowe told radio station 810 (WHB) on Tuesday. "Coach (Andy) Reid, he tries to get everybody the ball . . . it's not like a couple years ago, when I was the only one productive on the offense and you had to come to me 12 or 13 times a game. Coach just wants to keep everybody happy and put everybody in situations to make plays."
Yet, there's little doubt the Chiefs need more from Bowe, who caught 57 passes for 673 yards and five touchdowns this year but is one of the league's highest-paid receivers -- on a team with very little cap room, to boot.
"For the money," said Louis Riddick, an ESPN analyst and former Philadelphia director of pro personnel, "you want the Indianapolis performance more often than not. You want more of the consistent type of performance. Yeah, he needs to come through for them. They showed a lot of faith in him and made a big commitment to him. He needs to repay that commitment through his performance."
There's a belief that Bowe, who is listed at 6 feet 2 and 221 pounds, could take a major step toward doing just that by having a strong offseason of conditioning, something that Bowe himself acknowledged during the radio interview.
"One thing I want to work on -- my endurance," Bowe said. "I was really, really tired that last game."
Bowe said he plans on changing the way he eats, though he didn't provide details. He said he played this year between 212 and 214 pounds but hopes to report to camp a little lighter to better fit the offense.
"I probably want to play at 208 and try to be as quick and swift as possible, because that's the kind of receivers that Andy had when he was in Philly," Bowe said. "I'd like to be more explosive and faster than I was this season. I just want to work on my work ethic a little more and become quicker and faster so I can be like DeSean Jackson and those speedy, quick guys."
If Bowe is serious about his offseason preparation and can somehow find a way to approach his 2010 production -- when he caught 72 passes for 1,162 yards and a career-high 15 touchdowns -- Mayock said the presence of a rejuvenated Bowe alone could help the Chiefs' Charles-centric offense take a major step forward in 2014.
"You're talking about playmakers," Mayock said. "You're talking about helping (quarterback) Alex Smith make plays. Right now, when you look at this team, Jamaal Charles was the only playmaker on offense. He was special. But it puts an awful lot of pressure on your quarterback and your halfback when your halfback is the only big-time playmaker.
"So if Dwayne Bowe can catch the ball down the field, use his big body in the red zone and make plays out wide, it opens an awful lot up (all over the field)."
However, it would also go a long way toward proving he is worth the massive contract he signed in the offseason, though Bowe, as he has all season long, again insisted Tuesday that he willingly traded stats for wins in 2013 and would gladly do so again.
"Anytime you can take your team to the playoffs, I figure that's a great year, no matter the stats," Bowe told the radio station. "I played all-around great football, both blocking and receiving and getting guys in position to be where they're at today. We've got three offensive guys going to the Pro Bowl."
Yet, in the same vein, Bowe reiterated that the goal is to post better numbers in 2014 and is adamant that he's still got the juice that earned him that big contract in the first place.
"I know what I can do, and this was the first year of the (new) coaches seeing what guys can do," Bowe said. "Next year, it will be even better for me, statswise. But when you get to this point of your career, you just want to win, and that's all I want to do."
DWAYNE BOWE DISCUSSES FOOT-OUT-OF-BOUNDS PLAY AGAINST COLTS
Chiefs receiver Dwayne Bowe touched on several other issues during the radio interview, including the different ways his five-year, $56 million contract changed his life and his arrest for alleged marijuana possession in November. Here's a quick rundown:
-- On whether there was more pressure on him after signing his big contract:
"There definitely was pressure on the outside. Everybody's aiming for you and waiting on you to get in trouble, and people try to persuade you to get you to do things to get you caught up. That's the only bad thing once you sign . . . it's like the world wants you to fail, and that's the hard part about it.
"We're still human, we still like to do regular, normal things, and once you sign that check, it's like a big "X" on your house and on everybody in your family's back. You just got to live right. The police are after you. Everybody just wants a piece of Dwayne Bowe, and I had to learn that the hard way. That's how it is, no matter who you are.
"As long as you've got millions . . . there's always someone out there to get you, and that's the hard part about it."
-- On his arrest in November for alleged possession of marijuana:
"I mean, the people close around me and my team and the organization know that I had nothing to do with that. I was being profiled . . . it will all come to light in February. It wasn't a distraction because my teammates know and my family knows . . . it was like I said, I was just being watched and being followed. That's how it goes sometimes when you've got the millions behind your name.
"Whoever knows Dwayne, they know the truth about it and know what kind of guy I am. I just can't wait till it's all over to let the world know, instead of (just) those close to me, what really happened."
-- On whether he really believes the police are out to get him:
"I mean, it's not just them . . . it's everybody. Once you get those (bills) behind your name, you'll feel exactly how I feel. When you're in a town where there's not a lot going on, bad media is good media so you've just gotta stay calm and stay collected like I (am) now and just move in silence.
"I still go places, go out to eat, drive around the city and find things to do with my family, but you've just got to move in silence now because that's just how it goes."
-- On the final play against the Colts, when he nearly converted a fourth-and-11 catch down the sideline but couldn't get both feet inbounds:
"It was pretty simple -- all-go, vertical. Once I beat the corner off the rip, I was looking for the ball, but he (Alex Smith) had to go through his progressions. He tried to look safety off and throw it to me, which he did, but once I caught it, the corner was pushing me at the same time I was trying to get my feet in.
"Nobody really knows (this) . . . but I had a midfoot sprain. I got a little crack in (the foot) during the third quarter, so I really wasn't even supposed to be in the whole fourth quarter. But I (toughed) it out and played because in the last game, you have to take everything serious.
"I can barely walk right now. I've got my (foot) in a boot right now as we speak. I tried to make that play, I tried to get both feet in, but if I would have gotten it in, I know I would have probably broken my right foot. I've been getting rehab and treatment trying to get it right."
-- On whether he needs surgery:
"No, I just have to heal it. It's a small, small crack. But my foot was (sprained), third-degree."
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