ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — After successfully completing his first practice session in 10 months, running back Jamaal Charles spoke the words the Chiefs and their fans wanted to hear since he tore knee ligaments, ruining his 2011 season.
“I feel I’ve got my swag back,’’ Charles said. “My legs feel fresh. I’ve been out from football for (10 months) so it feels real good to be out on the field again.’’
The other members of the Chiefs’ torn ACL club, safety Eric Berry and tight end Tony Moeaki, also practiced for the first time in almost a year as the Chiefs began training camp at Missouri Western.
Like Charles, they reported no problems afterward. Their return lifted the spirits of coach Romeo Crennel.
“They look pretty good,’’ Crennel said. “They’re running around and they’ve got some bounce in the step so I feel pretty good about them.’’
Also practicing were the other starting safety, Kendrick Lewis, and backup linebacker Brandon Siler. Lewis had shoulder surgery immediately after last season and didn’t practice during the offseason. He will wear a brace on the shoulder to prevent further injury.
Siler missed all of last season because of a torn Achilles’ tendon and also didn’t practice in the spring.
Charles, Berry and Moeaki suffered a similar injury within two weeks of one another. Moeaki went down in the final preseason game, Berry in the regular-season opener and Charles the week after that.
Each had surgery shortly after, and the three spent the subsequent months rehabbing together.
On Friday, at least, the injuries were a thing of the past. Moeaki was the starter at tight end, Charles took turns with Peyton Hillis as the featured running back and Berry the starting strong safety.
Each moved around the field with no apparent trouble. Charles made the necessary cuts, Berry covered plenty of ground in pass coverage, and Moeaki got deep on one pass play, though he couldn’t quite catch up to Matt Cassel’s throw.
If any of the three had doubts they would make it back to the field in time for Friday’s practice, they were buried.
“I just know how hard I’ve been working, know how hard everybody involved in my recovery has been working, so I wasn’t worried,” Berry said. “We just kind of leaned on each other and pulled each other through.’’
Moeaki didn’t catch any passes in the team portion of Friday’s practice, but other matters were more important on this day.
“That’s what kept the three guys going to rehab every day, waking up, going through the tough times,’’ he said. “The goal was to get back on the field. Today was a day we were all looking forward to.’’
Not all days figure to go as smoothly. Mindful that the three players are coming off significant injuries and major surgeries, Crennel cautioned there would be days when Charles, Berry or Moeaki would be withheld from practice.
“We might have to manage them a little bit if they get a little irritated in the joint they had the surgery on, but they should be good to go,’’ Crennel said. “They’re excited and they’re ready and want to go.
“That joint hasn’t been stressed the way it’s going to be stressed in pads and out there on the football field. Most of the work they’ve been doing in the offseason, it’s all planned (or) it’s all straight-lined. They know when they’re going to make the cut, they know when they have to turn, they can go straight ahead. On the football field, it has to be a reaction. You may be going full speed this way and have to plant and go back the other way.
“Some of that will irritate the knee initially. Then when you get it irritated, you get a little swelling. If there’s swelling in the knee, then we’re going to have to back off just a little bit until that joint gets acclimated to the kind of workload the guys have to endure. The only problem you can encounter then is if it continues to swell and doesn’t acclimate.’’