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Chiefs may have to lower expectations with ACL group

  • The Kansas City Star
  • Published Wednesday, Sep. 19, 2012, at 5:39 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Sep. 23, 2012, at 11:25 a.m.

Running back Jamaal Charles figured there would be some temporary setbacks during his rehabilitation from last season’s torn ACL. That’s what he called the soreness in his left knee that knocked him out of last week’s Chiefs game in Buffalo.

“I feel real good,’’ said Charles, who was listed on Wednesday’s injury report as being a full practice participant. “It was a disappointing game out there, but I feel I’m getting better and better every week, so hopefully I’ll be able to turn it on this week.’’

Charles will play in Sunday’s game against the Saints in New Orleans. So will the other members of last season’s Chiefs ACL club, tight end Tony Moeaki and strong safety Eric Berry.

But coach Romeo Crennel sounded as if the Chiefs were lowering their expectations for the group, not just against New Orleans but also for the longer term.

“Those guys are playing and they’re practicing, and so they are good enough to play,’’ Crennel said. “Now, whether they’ll ever be back to what they used to be, I don’t know if that’s going to be the case, because they’ve had a reconstruction on the knee. Will it be like it was before the reconstruction? I don’t know that will be the case.

“But that does not keep guys from playing this game.’’

The first two games of the season stand as some evidence that Charles, Moeaki and Berry haven’t returned to what they were before their injuries. Charles against the Bills had statistically his worst game since becoming the featured back midway through the 2009 season. He had three yards on six carries.

Moeaki is fourth on the Chiefs with four catches. Berry, a Pro Bowler as a rookie in 2010, has been a part of one of the NFL’s worst defensive teams.

“He seems to be doing as much as he can do,’’ Crennel said of Berry. “He seems to be doing OK. Tony is doing OK. Jamaal is doing OK. But we — and when I say we I’m talking about myself and my staff — we have to be cognizant of the fact those guys have had major injuries. They are trying to recover from major injuries. It just doesn’t seem smart to just beat the guy’s knee up when you see a guy is limping. That’s not smart to beat him up. If you lose him again, you might not have him at all. There’s a thin line you kind of have to walk sometimes.”

The Chiefs took the side of caution in Buffalo. Charles banged his knee against the artificial turf at Ralph Wilson Stadium at one point. He returned briefly but didn’t play after being removed for good midway through the third quarter.

“As it developed, the other players were doing decent, so we didn’t feel a need to put him back in at that moment,’’ Crennel said.

Charles likened the turf in Buffalo to concrete. His knee hit the turf on one play when he was tackled.

“I got banged up but I went back in the game,’’ he said. “It was basically like a sting and I felt it. I went on the (exercise) bike and I got my feeling back, so I went back in the game. It wasn’t a big deal.’’

Except with Charles in Buffalo, the Chiefs haven’t backed off using any of the three players. Charles played 42 percent of the snaps in the opener against Atlanta. Berry hasn’t missed a defensive snap and also played some on special teams.

Moeaki played more than the other regular tight end, Kevin Boss, even before Boss left the game in Buffalo for good in the second quarter because of a concussion.

Moeaki will get a lot of work in New Orleans because Boss won’t play.

“I’m doing fine,’’ Moeaki said. “It’s just typical in-season soreness.’’

Charles reported the same thing.

“I’m not 100 percent, but when I played a couple of years ago, I wasn’t 100 percent,’’ he said. “Any player feels the same way I feel now: sore. I’m sore every week.

“I don’t want to worry about my knee too much. I just want to go out there and play football.’’

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