KANSAS CITY, Mo. —As reflected by their record the last three seasons, including a 4-12 finish in 2009, the Chiefs could use an upgrade at many positions.
Running back didn't figure to be one of them. Jamaal Charles appeared to claim the job with a brilliant second half of the season in which he rushed for more than 100 yards in four of the last five games, including a team-record 259 in the season finale in Denver.
But the Chiefs' first free-agent addition of the year was a running back, and 10-year veteran Thomas Jones is not one used to sharing the load. Jones, who will be 32 in August, has five straight 1,000-plus-yard seasons.
Playing in 2009 for the New York Jets, Jones set career highs for rushing carries (331), rushing yards (1,402) and rushing touchdowns (14).
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"We won four games last year," coach Todd Haley said in explanation. "We've got multiple different areas we've got to get better in, and running back was one of those we felt we had to continue to improve and create competition."
Haley said the signing of Jones wasn't a reflection on Charles, who rushed for 968 yards in the season's final eight games and was honored at last weekend's 101 Banquet as the Chiefs' most valuable player.
"I don't believe we've seen the best from Jamaal," Haley said. "He's acclimated himself to what we expected from him. He's a real good offseason guy and saw that all pay dividends for him last year. Jamaal has his focus set on being seen as one of the better players in the league, so he's got a lot of drive in that direction.
"I'm not going to set a bar on Jamaal because each time we did that last year he kind of broke through that bar and raised it. We're going to continue to push him hard and coach him and see how good he can be."
Haley has expressed some concern over Charles' ability to withstand the physical punishment a full-time back receives. Charles is only 200 pounds.
Haley has said the Chiefs planned to add a back capable of providing Charles some rest. In Jones, though, the Chiefs are getting a back capable of carrying the load by himself.
But Haley indicated the Chiefs could use each player enough to keep him happy and maximize his skills.
"That's part of being a good coach," Haley said. "I don't think you can have enough good football players who want to win and want to be part of something special. Thomas fits that bill.
"It's just a chance to add another good football player to the mix in addition to the ones we have, Jamaal being one of those guys for sure."
At 212 pounds, Jones is bigger and more powerful than Charles.
"This is a guy that has shown he's a complete back," Haley said. "He can run a lot of different runs successfully. He's shown that on tape. He had a year when he caught 56 balls."
Jones was a first-round draft pick by the Cardinals in 2000. But Jones accomplished little in his first NFL seasons, including one spent with Tampa Bay.
His career soared when he signed with Chicago as a free agent in 2004. He rushed for more than 1,000 yards in two of his three years with the Bears and all three seasons for the Jets, who traded for Jones in 2007.
"He's a good football player and a strong leader, a real professional," Haley said. "He's been part of turnarounds at a couple different places, in Chicago and New York, where he kind of got teams to the promised land, so to speak. He's a strong character and he loves football, so he fits that bill of what we're looking for here."
Jones is an advanced age for an NFL running back, but Haley said Jones is a young 31 because he was seldom used his first four NFL seasons.
"He saved a little wear and tear in the early part of his career, so it's not like he's necessarily a normal nine- or 10-year guy just because of that," Haley said. "In his first three or four years, he was under 200 carries, so it's not exactly what it appears.
"We did the research. We watch these guys thoroughly. You've got to make that determination. We all came to the conclusion that we'd like this guy to be part of what we're doing."