Jamaal Charles climbed into a green cart midway through practice Monday, favoring his right foot, and started to unbuckle his shoulder pads as he was taken to the Chiefs’ locker room.
Cue the hundreds of tweets speculating about his injury.
By the time practice ended and coach Andy Reid finally had a chance to brief reporters — it turned out to be a strained foot and X-rays were negative — just about anybody with an interest in the Chiefs was wondering how long the Pro Bowl running back would be out.
Cue the rush of tweets telling folks to calm down.
"We’ll just see how he does. Precautionary measures," Reid said. "We’ll see how he does here in the next little bit — see where he’s at as far as pain or swelling. We’ll see how he does."
Reid wouldn’t say for sure whether Charles will play Friday night against San Francisco.
"If he’s ready to go," Reid said, "he’ll play."
The social-media storm that erupted following Charles’ injury may have been only natural given how critical the flashy running back has become to the Chiefs. He’s coming off a 1,500-yard season for an offense that was among the worst in the NFL, and will be counted upon heavily in Reid’s system in both the running and passing game.
On the Chiefs’ opening drive last Friday night in New Orleans, Charles had five carries and three catches, touching the ball on more than half of their 14 plays. Charles wound up capping the drive with a 1-yard plunge, the only TD the Chiefs scored in a 17-13 defeat.
Then there’s the fact that Charles missed nearly an entire season two years ago with a torn ACL. He hasn’t been injury prone since joining the Chiefs, but not even Charles was sure whether he’d be the same player once he made it back from the left knee injury. He wound up running for at least 100 yards seven times in 2012, and more than 200 yards twice.
Reid seemed to bristle when asked Monday about balancing the level of contact in practice with the risk of injury. The Chiefs have been in full pads almost since the moment they arrived at training camp, tackling to the ground in just about every practice.
In fact, Charles was participating in an 11-on-11 session pitting the first-team offense against the No. 1 defense near the goal line Monday when he gingerly walked off the field. He spent some time talking to the training staff before riding off the field.
"Well, listen, we play. We come out and we do what we do," said Reid, who earned a reputation for running tough practices in Philadelphia. "We don’t worry about all that other stuff."
Knile Davis, the Chiefs’ third-round draft pick, stepped into Charles’ place with the first-team offense for the remainder of Monday’s practice. Davis had already moved past veteran Shaun Draughn and second-year running back Cyrus Gray to No. 2 on the depth chart.
"He went down. I had to get in, step in and play my role," Davis said. "(Reid’s) whole goal was to build a team where if one man went down the next man would step up."
Reid said that the reps that Davis got with the first-team offense were invaluable.
The former Arkansas star was considered a first-round talent coming out of college, but he slipped down draft boards because of injury concerns and a propensity for fumbling. Already, he’s shown game-breaking speed and uncanny elusiveness early in training camp.
"It was good work for Knile today, if you want to take a positive from it," Reid said. "It gives another guy an opportunity to practice. That’s how I look at it. It allowed Knile, our young running back, to get good work with the ones."
Notes: S Malcolm Bronson returned to practice. The former McNeese State star was placed on the PUP list at the beginning of camp due to a knee injury he sustained in college. … Pro Bowl S Eric Berry upended Draughn with a vicious blow along the sideline early in practice. … It seemed to be "gadget day" for Kansas City. The team ran through a variety of plays on offense and special teams that featured laterals and unconventional passes downfield.