KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali shed one of his crutches when he arrived at the club’s headquarters Monday.
That was a big improvement from Sunday, when Hali left Arrowhead Stadium on two crutches after suffering a sprained ankle in the Chiefs’ 41-38 loss to San Diego.
“He was able to walk in the pool and came in with one crutch … halfway there,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who was hopeful Hali might be available for this Sunday’s home game against the Denver Broncos.
The news was not as positive for Hali’s fellow Pro Bowl outside linebacker, Justin Houston, who suffered a subluxation of his right elbow on Sunday. Reid said the swelling on Houston’s elbow did not allow him to undergo an MRI, and Houston will have to wait a day or two while the swelling subsides.
Houston came through the locker room on Monday with his arm in a brace.
“I wasn’t surprised,” Reid said of Houston’s elbow. “After the game, they tried to keep the swelling down, but you could see it was puffing up after the game. Then overnight, it swelled up more. We’ll have to wait and see.”
The MRI on Hali revealed a slight ankle sprain, said Reid, and not the dreaded high ankle sprain that often means several weeks of inactivity.
“The MRI was a positive,” Reid said. “He’ll continue to work. He was moving around (Monday) a little better today than after the game.”
Houston and Hali have accounted for 20 of the Chiefs’ 37 sacks this season. Both players have been honored as AFC defensive players of the week, and Houston was selected AFC defensive player of the month for September. Houston has 11 sacks; Hali nine.
In addition, Hali scored the first two touchdowns of his eight-year career this season, returning an interception for a score in the season-opening win at Jacksonville and a fumble for a score at Buffalo.
Hali was injured on the first play of the second quarter against the Chargers; Houston during San Diego’s last possession of the first half. When Houston joined Hali in the dressing room with 1 minute, 45 seconds left in the first half, the Chiefs led 14-3.
The Chargers closed the half with a touchdown and would score 38 points against the Chiefs without Houston and Hali.
Hali was replaced by veteran Frank Zombo, and Houston was replaced by second-year man Dezman Moses.
Neither made much of an impact. Zombo made one nice move on Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers in the second quarter, forcing Rivers to get rid of the ball before hitting the ground. Zombo was credited with two tackles.
According to Pro Football Focus, Houston and Hali had two pressures each on Rivers in 19 pass rushes. Zombo and Moses combined for one pressure in 55 rushes.
Moses, who was claimed on waivers from Green Bay during the first week of the season, finished with Pro Football Focus’ lowest grade on the defense, minus-4.2.
“When you have negatives, the thing in my mind is to get those corrected so you can improve,” said Moses, who was credited with one tackle. “If you look at the positives, you may overlook some of the things you need to fix. I’ve got to be better, and I’ll definitely work to improve this week and be where I need to be.”
Moses has filled big shoes before. Last year as a rookie at Green Bay, he started four games in place of Pro Bowler Clay Matthews, who was out because of a hamstring injury, and Moses responded with four sacks.
So he isn’t awestruck by stepping in for someone of Hali or Houston’s status.
“That’s my job,” Moses said. “I don’t feel any extra or added pressure. I definitely understand what needs to be done. That’s my job as a backup. When one of those guys goes down, unfortunately, you’ve got to be able to come in and be prepared and be able to do your thing.”
Reid expressed confidence in Zombo and Moses if either Hali or Houston are unavailable for Sunday’s game against Denver.
“I’m in to the next guy stepping up and let’s go,” Reid said. “We don’t make excuses. We had opportunities to make plays. We’ve got to make plays.”
As for other injuries, Reid said left guard Jeff Allen had a groin strain, though he was able to finish the game.
Reid said the three starters who did not play against San Diego — right guard Jon Asamoah (shoulder), right tackle Eric Fisher (shoulder) and defensive end Mike DeVito (knee) — were making progress.