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NFL AM: Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles May Miss Week 1

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The Kansas City Chiefs may be looking at beginning their 2016 season the same way they ended 2015, without their best offensive player to provide a boost.

Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, who tore his ACL in Week 5 of last season and spent the entire offseason rehabbing, hasn’t yet been ruled out for the team’s Week 1 game against the San Diego Chargers. But Kansas City has been taking it slow with their franchise runner for the last several weeks and coach Andy Reid admitted for the first time on Friday that their methodical process of bringing Charles back to 100 percent could result in him being held out of the opener.

“I think Jamaal is going to need a little time to keep working to get himself back,” Reid said. “We’ll see how he does after a couple of days off.”

Charles, who is now nearly 11 months clear of the surgery to repair a torn right ACL he had last October, has been a “full-go” at Chiefs practices for the last two weeks, but did not participate in a preseason game for the team and has been slowly working his way back into the gameplan.

“I am ‘full go’ right now. I’m out here, I’m practicing and I can’t be happier about where I’m at,” he said on Tuesday. “When I step on the field, even just at practice, I’m able to work hard and be myself just to show everyone out here that I’m good to go. When we get into games, I’ll do what it takes to get ready, but I won’t do it to that extent. Before our own practices, I try to do so much and at a high level to get the knee stronger before I come out.”

This is the second ACL recovery for Charles, who is entering his ninth season in the league. He tore the ACL in his other knee during Week 2 of the 2011 season and missed the rest of that campaign. He came back with a vengeance that following season, rushing for a career-high 1,509 yards at a 5.3 yards per carry clip. His 1,745 all-purpose yards that season are the second most for a season in his career. However, it should be noted that Charles did not receive the start in his first game back from that recovery, instead relieving Peyton Hillis. The Pro Bowl running back also said that he’s been told that every ACL tear is different so having expectations for the same recovery timeline is misguided.

“The first time was totally different,” he told reporters. “The doctor told me, ‘When you have an ACL tear, don’t treat it like you did the first one. It’s totally different just like every knee is different.’ I’ve just got to trust myself and where I’m at with it.”

If Charles isn’t ready for the opener, the Chiefs will likely first turn to Spencer Ware, who made strong contributions to the team’s playoff run last season in Charles’ absence. Coming off a season in which he posted 403 yards and six touchdowns in 11 games, Ware tops the depth chart at running back for KC in Charles’ stead, evidenced by his workload this preseason. Behind him is Charcandrick West, who got the bulk of the starts last season with Charles out. The undrafted free agent totaled 848 all-purpose yards in 15 games, including nine starts last season.

With Ware and West, the Chiefs are in good hands and have the luxury to bring Charles along slowly. It could behoove them to keep their star runner fresh for this year’s playoff push.

KC TRADES MARCUS COOPER TO ARIZONA

Speaking of the Chiefs, as many teams made their final roster decisions on Friday, Kansas City was one of the few able to flip a spare piece in a trade for future assets.

KC agreed to trade cornerback Marcus Cooper to the Arizona Cardinals for a conditional 2018 NFL Draft pick. Cooper was a seventh round pick in the 2013 draft, but came on hot as a rookie, playing in all 16 games and earning six starts, recording three interceptions and a touchdown during that first season.

However, his playing time has dropped off steadily in the two years since and he played in just nine games last season with only one start. He became the victim of a numbers crunch in a crowded and talented Kansas City defensive backfield, which will be bolstered this year by the return of Phillip Gaines from an ACL tear of his own and the arrival of rookie KeiVarae Russell out of Notre Dame. There was simply no room on the roster for Cooper, who was likely to be cut. So the Cardinals used a conditional pick to give themselves first priority on grabbing him.

In joining Arizona, Cooper goes from one talented defensive backfield to another. The Cardinals cornerback corps are lead by one of the league’s best, Patrick Peterson and Arizona seems intent on starting rookie third round pick Brandon Williams alongside him. Cooper is likely also behind incumbent Justin Bethel on the depth chart but behind Bethel is a slew of rookies he’ll be competing with for a spot.

Both the Chiefs and Cardinals should be among the best defenses in the NFL in 2016, thanks in large part to their defensive backs, so it’s a lateral move for Cooper, one that also gives him a better opportunity, Arizona some depth and gives Kansas City an asset for the future, a rare win-win-win trade.

NOTABLE CUTS KEEP COMING

NFL rosters must be trimmed to 53 players by 4 p.m. ET on Saturday and that means the axe is dropping around the league, starting with some major decisions by teams on Friday to cut some notable names.

The Chiefs were also among those teams, cutting quarterback Aaron Murray, a 2014 fifth round pick out of Georgia, who was once thought to be a starting caliber prospect. However, the writing was on the wall for Murray after KC drafted Kevin Hogan and signed Nick Foles.

A slightly more surprising cut was made by the Buffalo Bills, who despite being sapped of their defensive depth by injuries and suspensions over the last several weeks, still decided to part ways with linebacker Manny Lawson. The 32-year-old was among those suspended players, though his ban was just for one game. Lawson is a 10-year veteran with 24.5 sacks under his belt and can likely help some team, though his best years are far in his rearview mirror.

Down in Tennessee, the Titans confirmed the turnover of their backfield by releasing veteran running back Dexter McCluster and 2014 second round pick Bishop Sankey. The latter was once thought to be the running back of the future in Tennessee, but that never materialized and was part of a woeful Titans ground attack over the last two seasons that forced the team to reboot at the position by trading for DeMarco Murray and drafting Derrick Henry this offseason. Tennessee also cut wide receiver Justin Hunter, a 2013 second round pick, paving the way for Andre Johnson to play for his third AFC South team in as many years.

Over in Carolina, the Panthers have been planning a youth movement at cornerback in the wake of Josh Norman’s departure this offseason, but one of the players expected to step in, fifth round pick Zack Sanchez, out of Oklahoma, was issued his walking papers on Friday. Sanchez was third on Carolina’s depth chart at cornerback entering the final preseason game, so the move is a bit of a shock. It now looks as though second rounder James Bradberry and third rounder Daryl Worley will be in the second and third spots, with veteran depth behind them.

Other notable names cut loose on Friday include Seahawks guard Jahri Evans, Cardinals cornerback Chris Clemons and Redskins tight end Logan Paulsen. There are plenty more where those came from to come throughout the day Saturday, as teams begin in earnest to get their rosters ready for the season.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys