KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston will have to wait at least another week before making his season debut after the star pass rusher was ruled out for Sunday’s game at Carolina.
Houston had surgery to repair his left ACL in February and was removed from the physically unable to perform list this week. But the Chiefs are being careful with his recovery, and coach Andy Reid decided Friday to give him at least another week of practice to get ready for game action.
Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and defensive lineman Jaye Howard have also been ruled out.
Houston was hopeful that he would be allowed to play against the Panthers, even saying Thursday that he was ready to "dominate." But the Chiefs would rather have him healthy for the stretch run and potential playoff games than rush him back onto the field.
"He had a very good week. He looked good," Reid said. "There are no setbacks."
The Chiefs have struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks this season, so Houston’s return has been eagerly anticipated. Kansas City only has 16 sacks through its first eight games, and Dee Ford has nine of those — meaning he will almost certainly begin seeing double teams soon.
Houston would demand the same kind of attention once he gets on the field.
"Justin has been a mainstay here for a while now," Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said, "so I think his return would be a real benefit for us in a lot of areas. Obviously from a talent standpoint on the field, he’s a really good football player. I think it would have an impact on a lot of guys."
Maclin hurt his groin in practice last week and attempted to play last Sunday against Jacksonville, but he aggravated the injury on the Chiefs’ first offensive series and did not return.
Howard has been dealing with a hip injury. Kendall Reyes is expected to fill his place.
The Chiefs will have quarterback Alex Smith and running back Spencer Ware back after both missed the game against the Jaguars with head injuries. Smith was inactive for precautionary reasons and Ware had not passed the league’s concussion protocol, but both practiced this week and will be ready for Sunday.
"Spencer has done well and has not had any repercussions of the concussion," Reid said Friday, "and he has had a good week of practice."