Chiefs have overcome injuries, schedule woes in 5-0 start
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Andy Reid had just finished the Kansas City Chiefs’ morning walkthrough inside the team’s practice facility when he stepped up to a microphone and began a roster roll call.
At least, that’s what it sounded like.
The long list of names was in fact the injury report, a listing of guys who weren’t going to be at the full afternoon practice.
He may have even left a couple out, the list was so long, from offensive linemen Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (knee sprain) and Mitch Morse (foot sprain) to tight end Travis Kelce (concussion) and wide receiver Albert Wilson (knee sprain).
The biggest loss was already known: Reid confirmed wide receiver Chris Conley is done for the season after rupturing his Achilles tendon in last Sunday’s victory in Houston.
He joins star safety Eric Berry, who ruptured his Achilles tendon in the season opener.
Yet despite all the injuries, a brutally difficult set of opponents and a topsy-turvy schedule, the Chiefs have managed to overcome it all.
They are the NFL’s lone unbeaten team heading into a premier showdown on Sunday with the Pittsburgh Steelers, the same team that eliminated them from last season’s playoffs.
“I think for us, when you’re in it, you’re just going,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “You realize everybody has injuries at some point. They’re unfortunate. You hate when they happen. But I think a little bit of it’s the culture we’ve built here, you don’t skip a beat. Next man up and you go.”
Until you run out of men. And the Chiefs are quickly approaching that point.
Take the wide receiver spot, where Conley and Wilson were the closest thing the Chiefs have to veterans. Without them, they figure to rotate second-year players Tyreek Hill and Demarcus Robinson with rookie Jehu Chesson — though Reid did sound optimistic Wilson could be available.
Or take the defensive backfield, where Steven Terrell is going through the concussion protocol. The young safety was only thrust into the mix after Berry went down in New England.
Or take outside linebacker, where veteran Tamba Hali remains on the PUP list. Dee Ford has missed a couple of games with a back injury and star linebacker Justin Houston, whose 5½ sacks lead the team, was not at practice Wednesday because of a calf spasm.
“Getting injured, man, this game — that’s what it comes with,” said linebacker Derrick Johnson, who returned this season from a second ruptured Achilles tendon.
“But it is one of those things where you have to put your faith in the man above, keeping work, don’t get distracted.”
The injuries began even before the season, when running back Spencer Ware went down with a knee injury, thrusting rookie Kareem Hunt into a feature role.
Offensive tackle Eric Fisher has dealt with back spasms, the defensive line has been banged up, and the Chiefs had to pluck a kicker off the Carolina practice squad when Cairo Santos went down with a groin injury.
Yet the Chiefs have continually overcome all that.
“Our personnel department’s brought in some good guys,” Reid said. “It’s the next man up and we expect them to do the job. We’re lucky we have enough depth to be able to do that.”
Oh, that personnel department: Much of that depth was brought in by John Dorsey, who was fired as general manager over the summer. The work he poured into building one of the deepest 53-man rosters in the NFL has been quickly forgotten as the Chiefs enjoy the third 5-0 start in franchise history.
But his replacement, Brett Veach, has also played a crucial role. In just a couple of months on the job, he swung trades for linebacker Reggie Ragland and offensive lineman Cam Erving — both of whom are now playing — and snapped up Harrison Butker, whose kicking has surpassed all expectations.
The Chiefs’ ability to overcome is about to be put to the test, though. Along with the injuries, they’re preparing to face an ornery team in Pittsburgh coming off a humiliating loss to Jacksonville, then must travel to Oakland for a Thursday night matchup on short rest.
By the time they hit Week 8, they’ll have played five times in primetime.
“You have to enjoy the ride,” Smith said, dismissing the many obstacles Kansas City has faced this season. “If you’re not enjoying the process, I mean, there’s a problem.
“You invest so much in your teammates and your guys and everybody where, when you do have success, you have to enjoy it.”