Chiefs’ Ware back in starting role after Hunt’s departure
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Spencer Ware lost his starting job with the Chiefs after a devastating injury in a preseason game.
He got it back after Kareem Hunt’s devastating fall last week.
Ware answered the call on short notice, too, carrying 14 times for 47 yards and a touchdown while helping the Chiefs to a 40-33 win in Oakland last Sunday.
The performance came despite Ware getting only about 10 percent of the first-team repetitions in practice, and only 48 hours after Hunt was stunningly released follow the release of a video that showed him assaulting a woman in a Cleveland hotel in February.
Now, the 27-year-old Ware gets a full week of practice as the Chiefs’ starting running back before taking the field at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday. And he just may need it — the Chiefs are preparing to face the Baltimore Ravens, who have the league’s best defense.
“I’ve been battling all year, 18 months, to get back fully,” Ware said. “The Chiefs came in, the training staff, they’ve been supporting me. They’ve been behind me every single play.
“That’s been building my confidence,” he said. “I thank my teammates and the organization. It makes it easier for me when I’m out there and I can play with people behind me.”
This is hardly the first time the Chiefs have had his back.
Ware had put on weight and moved to fullback when he joined the Seattle Seahawks out of college, but he only appeared in two games for them before being released. The Chiefs took a chance on Ware and he made the most of it, earning a spot on the roster and slimming back down to play running back.
He wound up starting two of the 11 games he played during the 2015 season, and all 14 he appeared in the next season, when former starter Jamaal Charles went down with a season-ending injury.
Ware was supposed to be the starter last season, even after the Chiefs selected Hunt in the third round of the draft. But he tore ligaments in his knee in a gruesome preseason injury, and Hunt took his opportunity and ran with it — quite literally — to the tune of an NFL rushing title.
When he returned in training camp, Ware was suddenly thrust into a backup role.
It was probably for the best, at least early on, because Ware acknowledged his fitness and game-readiness wasn’t quite on point early this season. But he ran eight times for 59 yards against Cincinnati in a game that got out of hand early, he finally reached the end zone for the first time this year in a game against Arizona, and he played well in a tough environment last week in Oakland.
“It was great to get Spencer back in there and working on more of a full-time basis,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, “as opposed to being a relief pitcher or a third-down player.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Wednesday he doesn’t expect the Chiefs to change their offense with Ware in the backfield. His physical running style and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is similar to that of Hunt, while his experience makes up for his lack of game action this season.
“Really it’s the same offense. You have to defend the plays and the players running them,” Harbaugh said. “They have capable backs. Spencer Ware has been a starter and done a good job in this league.”
Damien Williams and Darrel Williams remain the backups this week, though the Chiefs brought back veteran Charcandrick West to provide some depth. West was released in training camp, but is familiar with the Chiefs offense, not to mention the Ravens defense.
He ran for 76 yards and a touchdown in a game against Baltimore a few years ago.
“We just have to deal with the guys we’re playing,” Harbaugh said. “I don’t expect anything new.”
Notes: WR Sammy Watkins (foot) and safety Eric Berry (heel) practiced Wednesday, though Reid declined to say whether either will be available. “We’ll just see how they do,” he said. … Reid said the Chiefs are preparing for both Ravens QBs Joe Flacco and Lamar Jackson. “You just try to make sure you cover your bases there,” Reid said.