The Kansas City Chiefs hope to have at least half their fearsome pass rushing duo when they welcome Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday.
Just how effective Tamba Hali will be is another question.
Hali said before practice Wednesday that he plans to play despite spraining his right ankle in last weekend’s loss to San Diego. The two-time Pro Bowl linebacker participated in the morning walk-through and said he’d been receiving treatment on the ankle all week.
"We’re all hurt, but you have to believe you can make plays," said Hali, who is second on the team with nine sacks. "I just want to be ready to play on Sunday. I mean, just be honest with my body and myself. If I can play, I’ll play. … I feel optimistic about being out there."
That’s a much better feeling than Hali had when he gingerly walked off the field last Sunday, climbed into a waiting cart and was driven up the tunnel to the Chiefs locker room.
He spent the second half of a 41-38 loss to the Chargers alongside fellow pass rusher Justin Houston, who had hurt his right elbow moments later. Chiefs coach Andy Reid described Houston’s injury as an elbow subluxation — a minor dislocation — but he was still undergoing tests.
Regardless, Houston is almost certain to miss Sunday’s game against Denver, and that means it will be even more important for the Chiefs to get Hali back on the field.
"I thought I’d be fine, but when I stepped on it and I felt so much pain, I felt like I could play through it," Hali said of his injury. "But every time I pushed, I could barely walk.
"They were trying to get me back out there, doing all kinds of things, seeing if I could push off on it, and I couldn’t," Hali said. "I wasn’t too optimistic, but a day later, I feel better. I keep telling the guys, keep laughing and you’ll feel better, so I’ve been laughing."
Hali said he didn’t feel any additional pressure to get back on the field because of the high-profile status of Sunday’s game. The Chiefs and Broncos are both 9-2 and tied atop the AFC West, but Denver has already beaten Kansas City once this season.
With a loss, the Chiefs would face a two-game deficit with four games to go with the Broncos holding the tiebreaker by virtue of their head-to-head record.
"It all depends on what the training staff wants me to do. If they want to see me do stuff out there, I’ll do it," Hali said. "I just want to be ready to play Sunday."
If either outside linebacker is unable to play, Frank Zombo would start in his place. If both are out, as was the case this past weekend, Dezman Moses would fill the other spot.
"As far as I know, they’re running everything as normal," Moses said. "Coach has a great defense installed and we’re going to do our best to execute it and get the job done."
It’s hardly a surprise that Hali is trying desperately to get back on the field.
Now in his eighth season, he’s only missed two games in his career. The first was in 2008, when he sprained the same ankle in a game against New Orleans. The other was last year’s season-opener, when he was suspended for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.
"I think there’s a good chance he’s there, but we’ll see," Reid said. "Every day he’s made progress. That he went through the walk-through I thought was a big step. He’s going to tell me he’s going to play — that’s what he’s telling me. But again, we have to make sure he’s going to be safe to be out there. We’re not going to put him in a position to worsen the injury."
Reid said defensive tackle Mike DeVito should be available against Denver after missing last week’s game with a knee injury. Right tackle Eric Fisher and right guard Jon Asamoah also could be back after dealing with shoulder injuries.
Defensive back Sanders Cummings, who was on short-term injured reserve after breaking his collarbone in training camp, had some inflammation in the same shoulder that he hurt.
Still, the news was mostly positive Wednesday on the injury front.
Especially as it pertained to their veteran pass rusher.
"The training staff has done a great job of jumping on the injury," Hali said. "It’s just a blessing I was able to jump back in and start doing things."
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