Kyle Williams (L), Eric Fisher (C) and Travis Kelce (R) remain physical question marks for Chiefs
Last season, the Chiefs were among the healthiest teams in the NFL.
Now, healthy is a relative term when it comes to pro football. Every player hurts, in time many of those hurts become injuries, and over the course of training camp, pre-season and the 16-game regular season, nobody escapes pain.
In Andy Reid’s first season in charge, the Chiefs lost 24 games from starters and key contributors, or an average of 1.5 players gone per game. There were five games where the Chiefs had all their starters and key contributors. Those games came in week two (Dallas), week seven (at Tennessee), week eight (Cleveland), week nine (at Buffalo) and week 10 (at Denver.) The game where the most starters/contributors missed the action was game 14 in Oakland against the Raiders. That day left tackle Branden Albert, tight end Anthony Fasano, outside linebacker Justin Houston and wide receiver Dexter McCluster were all in active.
Reid will give credit for the relative health of his team to his two leaders in that category: head trainer Rick Burkholder and strength and conditioning coach Barry Rubin. Both have been around football and the NFL for a long time and are known around the league for their expertise. What cannot be ignored, however, is the element of luck. That includes timing of injuries, and what position they play.
The Chiefs did not lose a start at quarterback, running back, nose tackle, safety, one cornerback spot, inside linebackers and one cornerback spot. The offensive line missed the most starts with 10 (Albert 4, right tackle Eric Fisher 3, guard Jon Asamoah 2, and guard Jeff Allen 1.) Only seven games saw the starting offensive line at the time together on the field.
The roster’s off-season rest and work periods are over, and they are now on a month-long build up to the start of training camp. There will not be much in the way of vacation for the players if they are smart. Too much blood and sweat has been shed to give it back by lying on the beach for four weeks.
As they scattered around the country, here’s an update on where injured and previously injured players stand:
Wide receiver Dwayne Bowe β On the last day of mini-camp (June 19), Bowe ran across the back of the end zone, caught a pass and then was either tripped or hit by a defensive back. He fell to the ground and appeared to hit the turf on one of his knees. Bowe got up and limped off and minutes later, the practice focus shifted to special teams. No rumblings of any substantial injury and with a month to heal before camp, Bowe will have plenty of time to nurse a small injury. Remember he ended the 2013 season with a sprained foot in the game I the playoffs against Indianapolis.
Safety Malcolm Bronson β In September 2012, Bronson a three-time FCS All-America selection at McNeese State University a down with a torn ACL in his left knee during the third quarter of a game against Weber State. He did not play the rest of the season and signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent. When training camp started last year, he was placed on the NFL’s non-football injury list, a designation for players not yet recovered from college career injury problems. Bronson was waived on the final pre-season roster cut and then signed to the practice squad, where he spent the entire 2013 season. In mini-camps and OTA practices this spring, Bronson has shown no lingering problems from the injury, and he was running with the second-team defense at safety, and also getting some work with the No. 1 sub-defense covering the s lot receiver. He’s full-go for camp.
Safety Sanders Commings β It was a rookie season spent in the trainer’s room for Commings, who broke his collarbone in a practice for the rookies at training camp before the veterans were even on campus in St. Joseph. He was placed on the injured-reserve list with recall status, and he was added to the active roster on November 5th. But he ended up playing in just two games before he re-injured the shoulder and went back to the injured-reserve list. So far in 2014, Commings has not shown any lingering problem with his shoulder. He and the Chiefs will breathe easier when he has a chance to use that shoulder to make a tackle.
Running back Knile Davis β In the second half of the Chiefs loss to Indianapolis in the first round of the AFC playoffs, Davis went down with a fractured left fibula and a sprained knee, a combination that first appeared to be serious. But after a normal rehab time, Davis came through the injuries without a problem. In the off-season program, Davis showed no lingering effects from the injury and was full-go heading into training camp.
Wide receiver Weston Dressler β A left hamstring pull in June 12th OTA practice kept Dressler off the field for the final OTA and the first day of mini-camp. He returned and took part in the final two mini-camp practices and did not appear to be hampered by the pulled muscle. Over his six seasons in the Canadian Football League, Dressler missed 10 of 108 regular-season games, including a pulled hamstring in 2008 and a fractured right ankle and fibula in 2009.
Left tackle Eric Fisher β A shoulder problem bothered Fisher throughout the 2013 season and led to off-season surgery earlier this season. This has slowed his development going into a second NFL season, especially with his move to left tackle from the right side where he played last year. Also, a sports hernia injury required surgery in the off-season as well and the two injuries kept him from being able to throw the weights around to prepare for the 2014 season. Reid said last week that Fisher’s expected to be ready for full contact with the shoulder for the start of training camp. But it’s likely the Chiefs will start slowly with Fisher to make sure there are no immediate setbacks.
Tight end Demetrius Harris β On December 18th last year, Harris went on the practice-squad injured-reserve list with an ankle injury. At no time during the recent on-field work at OTAs and mini-camps did he show he was hindered by the injury and he appeared full-go for St. Joe.
Guard Ricky Henry β the former University of Nebraska blocker was claimed off waivers by the Chiefs from New Orleans on August 20th last year. Henry ended up starting at left guard for the Chiefs in the final pre-season game on August 29th at Green Bay. He was waived injured the next day but added to the injured-reserve list where he spent the 2013 season. He’s been running with the third-team offensive line in the off-season and showing no ill-effects from last year.
Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins β hamstrings have been a Jenkins problem throughout his short NFL career. In the OTA sessions, he came up lame in a June 3rd practiced and missed the rest of the week and early practices the next week. In both of his training camps with the 49ers, Jenkins missed practice time because of hamstring pulls. At this point in his career, Jenkins cannot afford to miss any time because of a sore hammy. He finished out the off-season participating in the mini-camp practices.
Inside linebacker James-Michael Johnson β suffered an ankle injury in the regular-season finale last year and went to the injured-reserve list in the week before the opening round post-season game against Indianapolis. Johnson has not shown any continuing problem with the ankle.
Tight end Travis Kelce β last season was a frustrating start of Kelce’s NFL career. He was active but did not play in the season opener, then was a game-day inactive for the next four games before he was placed on the injured reserve list on October 12th due to a knee injury that required micro-fracture surgery. He suffered a bone bruise during training camp and MRI tests did not show the problem. Once he underwent an arthroscopic exam, doctors saw the spot where cartilage attaches to the femur. He had the surgery on October 8th and was placed on injured-reserve four days later. It was not until the mini-camp last week that Kelce actively took part in drills, but his work was limited to running pass routes against air. The true test on his knee repair will come in training camp when he has to block.
Quarterback Aaron Murray β saw his college career end prematurely when he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee in a November 23rd game against Kentucky. In the second quarter, Murray took off on a 28-yard run and while making a cut, the quarterback felt a pop in his knee. He finished the possession, even throwing a touchdown pass and came out for one more series before he was pulled and sent to the locker room. The Chiefs did not appear to have any limitations on Murray during OTAs and mini-camps. He ran well when forced too and showed strong leg fundamentals when throwing the ball.
Right tackle Donald Stephenson β a left calf injury happened on June 12th during an OTA practice and he limped off the field. Stephenson missed practice the next day, but came back to work in the mini-camp practices without any obvious problem.
Cornerback David Van Dyke β The undrafted rookie defensive back from Tennessee State University did not help his chances of making the team when he missed almost two weeks of OTA practices because of a pulled hamstring. Van Dyke was back on the field for the mini-camp and that’s where he must stay if he expects to be very long odds and make the club. It can’t happen in the tub.
Wide receiver Kyle Williams β the Chiefs claimed him off waivers on November 13th from San Francisco and Williams played in the November 17th game in Denver against the Broncos. In practice the next week he suffered a torn ACL in his left knee and was placed on the injured-reserve list on November 22nd. It was the second time in two years that he tore the same knee ligament. Williams was limited to running routes against air during the team’s mini-camp and it appeared that his knee was strong and he was not concerned about putting his foot in the ground and making cuts. Williams should be ready to practice in St. Joe, but the team may bring him along slowly because of the nature of his two torn ACLs.