Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe was diagnosed Thursday with a concussion.
Bowe was on the field at the start of practice that is open to reporters. He later reported concussion-like symptoms and was listed on the injury report as a non-participant in practice.
Bowe was shaken up in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 23-7 loss to Indianapolis when hit by Colts safety LaRon Landry, who was given a 15-yard penalty for hitting a defenseless player.
Bowe was already on the ground after making a catch for 10 yards when Landry grazed him in the head. Bowe left the field but returned later in the drive and was targeted for a pass that went incomplete.
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Bowe is the Chiefs’ second-leading receiver with 57 catches for 673 yards and five touchdowns. He caught five passes for 46 yards on Sunday.
Considering the Chiefs are locked into the No. 5 spot in the playoffs, and coach Andy Reid said he planned to mix some backups into the starting lineup, Bowe likely will sit out Sunday’s game at San Diego. He has not missed a game this season.
Outside linebacker Tamba Hali, who has a knee injury, was the only other player who did not practice.
The Chargers said running back Ryan Mathews (ankle) and wide receiver Eddie Royal (toe) did not practice, and cornerback Shareece Wright (foot) and tackle Jeromey Clary (hand) were limited.
Albert says he’s ready
The Chiefs may rest some of their starters or limit their playing time at San Diego, but offensive left tackle Branden Albert expects to be back in the starting lineup.
Albert, who missed the last three games after sustaining a hyperextended knee Dec. 1 against Denver, says he’s ready to play against the Chargers.
“That’s the plan,” Albert said before Thursday’s practice. “I plan on getting in there. We’ll see how things go toward the end of the week. I’m feeling good, I’m ready to help this team win. That’s all that matters. I’m preparing like I’m playing.”
Albert wants to get back into the flow of a game in preparation for the first round of the playoffs on the weekend of Jan. 4-5.
“For the last few weeks, I’ve been practicing and preparing like I’m going to play,” said Albert. “I don’t think I’m too rusty. I’ve been around for a while. I can knock the rust off.”
Albert, a sixth-year veteran who is in a contract year after the Chiefs slapped the franchise tag on him last spring, was performing at a high level before the injury. According to Pro Football Focus, he had a 14.4 pass-blocking rating in a system where anything plus is considered good.
Albert, who has allowed four sacks this season, has an overall plus-10.0 grade, which ranks No. 28 among 76 tackles who have played at least 278 snaps.
“He’s had a couple of weeks where he’s rested that injury,” offensive coordinator Doug Pederson said, “and he’s one of those guys who needs to get out and play.”
Dividing the snaps
Pederson gave no indication on whether backup players, notably quarterback Chase Daniel and running back Knile Davis, took any first-team snaps Thursday in place of quarterback Alex Smith and running back Jamaal Charles.
“You go into it with the starters are playing,” said Pederson. “That’s the bottom line. It’s the last game on the schedule, and everyone has to be ready to play. … (Daniel) is the backup quarterback. … I’ve been in this role before as a backup quarterback, and you’re in the same situation as the backup as you are in week one. You get a lot of mental (snaps).”
Smith suffered through his worst performance with the Chiefs in Sunday’s 23-7 loss to Indianapolis, completing just 16 of 29 passes for 153 yards and two interceptions for a 41.3 passer rating. That was a week after Smith produced a perfect 158.3 passer rating with five touchdown passes at Oakland, so Pederson would like to see his quarterback rebound this week.
“Here’s the thing,” Pederson said. “He’s going in as the starter. He’s got to play. We want to erase the mistakes we made in the game last weekend. We have one more opportunity before the postseason starts.”
Charles’ 259 touches rank third in the NFL, accounting for 36 percent of the Chiefs’ offensive plays, and Pederson played it coy when addressing what kind of workload Charles might have Sunday.
“He knows, too, that in order for him to have success in the postseason, his timing with Alex and the offensive line needs to stay hot, and they need to play,” Pederson said.
“You can’t look past San Diego. … We’ve got to try and win the football game. You want to be playing your best football. You want your guys playing, and you want to carry that momentum into next week.”
While Hali, who suffered a knee injury in last week’s loss to Indianapolis, likely will sit out Sunday’s game at San Diego, fellow linebacker Justin Houston appears ready to return.
Houston, who missed the last four games with a dislocated elbow, practiced with the first team and even gave an enthusiastic shout to break the defensive huddle before practice began Thursday.
Houston and Hali share the club’s lead in sacks with 11, and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton hopes to have Houston back in the lineup at San Diego.
“He’s practicing hard, and he appears to be pretty confident,” Sutton said. “That’s a big part about any injury; the player, once he’s cleared medically, he has to feel good, too. He’s got to feel confident that he’s back. … My impression is he’s practiced really hard, which he did a week ago. … So I think he’s close.”
Houston was not available to reporters Thursday, and when asked how important it would be for Houston to get a tune-up before the playoffs, Sutton said: “He’s played a lot of football. … It would be great if he could (play) but I wouldn’t lose a lot of sleep if he didn’t. He’s a veteran player who has played a lot of snaps, so I don’t see it as a huge thing.”
Backup players comprise the majority of players on the special teams units, so if the Chiefs replace starters with reserves, that can mean some double duty for special teamers.
“The guys will be tired,” said special teams coordinator Dave Toub. “It’s not like the preseason, when you have a whole bunch of guys you can go to and bring ‘em up to play special teams.”
Primary special teams players who may see considerable action include wide receiver Junior Hemingway, linebackers Dezmon Moses and James Michael Johnson, safety Husain Abdullah, defensive end Mike Catapano, cornerback Ron Parker and running back Cyrus Gray.
“If those guys do start … they will be starting on special teams as well,” Toub said. “I told them to carb up this week and be ready to roll if that happens. If it happens for them, it will be a great opportunity to play offense and defense.”