The Softer Side Of A.J. Smith: Kris Dielman's Retirement

The Chargers may not have Kris Dielman in their locker room as a player when the 2012 season begins, but there’s no doubt he is still a huge part of the team. Even those believed to be devoid of any real emotions on the business side of the team were invested in Dielman more as a man than as a player.

Bolts’ General Manager A.J. Smith is often times characterized as a curmudgeon lacking true feelings for any given player. Those misconceptions can be put to bed after his inspired words about Dielman following the nine-year pro’s retirement last week.

Never one to dole out compliments unless they are well-deserved, Smith said: “Kris Dielman is one of my all-time favorite, favorite players. And it’s a short list.” Chargers’ fans have to agree with Smith that Dielman’s presence on the roster for nearly a decade really aided in this team’s reemergence as a viable contender in the AFC.

While gushing certainly isn’t something Smith has been known for in the past, his overwhelming connection with Dielman allowed him to let his guard down (forgive the pun) in this case. In his interview with U-T San Diego, Smith gave a candid and lengthy explanation of just why Dielman earned the status as one of the GM’s all-time favorite players.

According to Smith: “It’s more than him being a great player. It has to do with his sincerity, his old-fashioned roots, (his) blue collar, his sense of humor, his loyalty. His greatest trait – and he’s got a million of them — is he has absolutely no tolerance at all for malcontents around him, left or right. I relate to that.

“It comes out in him. It’s in his eyes and his body language. He can’t take it. Others may be more tolerant or more forgiving. (With) Dielman, if you’re a malcontent, he’s watching. ‘I see that. Stay over there. Teammate or not, if you want to get with the program, I’ll embrace you.’ If you want to do your thing, he’s basically saying you’ll get your ass run out of here shortly.”

“His presence on a plane, in a locker room, his game-day preparation -- when you look at him, you know he’s in a game-day mode (or) practice mode,” Smith said. “He’s got a little bit of a smile after a victory, just a sick little grin. There are so many things about this guy that I love.”

Smith’s lovefest for Dielman is clearly warranted as he opened many holes for LaDainian Tomlinson during his record-setting season in 2006 and continued his great play beyond those years. Dielman’s four consecutive Pro Bowls from 2007-2010 were the height of his career and during his time with the Bolts he was known as their enforcer. His gritty on-field attitude allowed him to assert himself as the man to be reckoned with should any upheaval present itself.

This warm and loving side of Smith is something that fans in San Diego are unfamiliar with for the most part. His outward heartless and unbending attitude portrays a man with much less sensitivity than the man talking about Dielman in this interview.

Most fans around the league know Smith as a GM with very little in the emotion department and plenty of spite when it comes to negotiations. The GM himself knows these perceptions are out there as he said: “When you say he is cold and callous in a business, I have no problem with that. I’ve got a job to do, none of this fuzzy-fuzzy stuff. But yeah, there’s another side. Yeah, there’s another side to me. Absolutely.”

That other side, no matter how odd it may seem to fans familiar with his uncensored negotiating tongue, is something great to see on the softer side of football. Off of the field these are just real people with real lives and real emotions for one another that do come out at times without a filter.

His final words regarding the retirement of Dielman were in classic Smith style melding both his masked negotiator side with his emotional human counterpart. The GM said: “He knows how I feel. I don’t have any proof of it, but I think he knows that I think he’s special and one of my all-time favorite players. Even though I’ve never told him.”

Dielman was honored as one of the 50 best Chargers to ever play when those accolades were handed out for the franchise’s 50th anniversary. His legacy with the Bolts will continue on for years to come and his presence on the field will be impossible to replace.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think in seeing the comments offered by GM Smith about Dielman and his career with the Bolts? Do you think it is possible to replace the All-Pro guard’s talents on the field or will the team struggle at that position in the near future? Does it surprise you to read GM Smith’s open words offered about Dielman or is his persona given a bad rap unjustly? Dielman was honored as one of the 50 best Bolts of all-time, but in your opinion, is he the best guard the team has ever had? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below!

March 6, 2012

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