Chiefs dealing with mounting number of nagging injuries
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) The Kansas City Chiefs have not had that moment in training camp or preseason when everyone notices a player hobbling to the sideline or flat on the field, and there is a collective gasp.
Nothing like the knee injury that will sideline Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson for the season, or the ankle injury to Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey.
But while the Chiefs have largely steered clear of devastating injuries, they have been no less hobbled by numerous ailments.
From sprained ankles to minor knee injuries, the sum total of the injuries has resulted in hundreds of missed reps at a crucial time: Just as the Chiefs are trying to get up to speed for the start of the regular season.
”There are just some things as you go through camp,” Chiefs offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said. ”Once you get closer to the regular season, those things become sort of ironed out and now those guys can work on becoming a cohesive group going into the first week.”
Nowhere is that more evident than on the offensive line.
Jeff Allen hurt his knee in the preseason opener against Arizona, his first game after a season-ending injury in last year’s regular-season opener. The right guard was followed to the injury tent a few days later when left tackle Eric Fisher sprained his ankle in practice.
The result has been an offensive line already in flux – trying to work in a rookie center in Mitch Morse, a new left guard in Ben Grubbs and settle on a right tackle – thrown into chaos.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said it’s a longshot Allen or Fisher is back for Friday night’s game against Tennessee, the third preseason game when starters typically play the most.
”It will be similar, I’m sure, as the game that we had last week,” he said.
There are other positions where the Chiefs have been banged up.
Inside linebacker Josh Mauga has been out with a heel injury, though he was hopeful of returning to practice this week. His backup, Justin March, had surgery on a torn meniscus just over a week ago. James-Michael Johnson and Dee Ford have also been banged up, with Ford dealing with a concussion early in camp and then hurting his ribs last Friday night against Seattle.
All of which makes it hard to carve out some continuity.
Then there is the critical connection between quarterback and wide receiver, one that hasn’t been easy for Alex Smith to establish throughout training camp.
High-priced newcomer Jeremy Maclin missed a few practices with a neck strain, though he has played in both preseason games. Presumptive No. 2 wide receiver Albert Wilson, who played a bit late last season, was out of practice midway through camp with an illness.
Third-round draft pick Chris Conley had the most work to make up. He went down with a knee injury the first week of training camp, then spent 10 days trying to get back on the field. When he finally returned, the speedy wide receiver looked to be running without limits – when he knew when and where to be running.
Conley finally got into his first preseason game last Friday night.
”Everyone hates to be off the field and me, especially, I just love to play,” he said. ”I will never get that time back, but it puts a charge on me as a player to get everything out of the snaps that I got tonight and everything that I can out of practice this coming week.”
Reid typically plays his starters sparingly – if at all – in the fourth preseason game, but the number of nagging injuries that have piled up could force him to change that tact.
First, though, all those guys have to make sure they’re healthy.
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