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Spencer Ware is thriving in his role as Chiefs backup running back

The former 2016 leading rusher has embraced his role, and he says he takes nothing for granted.

Kansas City Chiefs v Atlanta Falcons Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Back in mid-July of this year, we posted an article on Arrowhead Pride citing an ESPN report that running back Spencer Ware restructured his Kansas City Chiefs contract, likely to open up more cap space for the team.

At the time, Ware hadn’t played in a regular-season game since December of 2016 due to a torn PCL and LCL he suffered during the 2017 preseason. The Chiefs had since moved on to second-year running back Kareem Hunt after a rookie campaign in which Hunt had won the NFL rushing title.

According to Carrington Harrison of 610 Sports’ The Drive, Ware’s contract was restructured to incentivize things such as “100-plus touches, 750 to around 825 yards from scrimmage, four to six touchdowns and goal-line touches.”

Harrison added that Ware and his representatives wanted to take a “cautious approach” because of the Chiefs signing additional options at running back in the offseason. Rather than the Chiefs cutting Ware because of the price tag, the new contract would provide him an opportunity to extend his career.

As expected, Ware made the 53-man roster cut and has since served as Hunt’s primary backup this season. Ware opened up for the first time Friday about his mindset in restructuring his contract this preseason.

Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

“The Chiefs gave me an opportunity for my career,” Ware said. “We worked with each other on this recovery and, like I said, I trust my organization, I trust my guys. I’m grateful for the opportunity that they gave me here. At the same time, we all know it’s a business. Both parties are happy—let’s play ball.

“Let’s get the numbers out of the way. Let’s play ball.”

And play ball he has.

In limited time this season—112 offensive snaps to be exact—Ware has 27 touches for 195 yards from scrimmage, highlighted by an 89-scrimmage yard effort in 22 plays against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“That was a big game for him,” Reid said the Monday after the Chiefs’ 45-10 win. “He had the injury and it was one of those injuries you are sitting there going, ‘Is this going to be career ending? Where are we at here?’ It was a pretty significant injury.

“Then he comes back and worked like crazy. He comes back off of it and we have given him play time but nothing like that right there ... Those legs got heavy. He was tired. He hadn’t had to push himself past that wall. You can go run the hill and go do all those things these guys do. Until you’re getting banged on a little bit, then you have to get back in, collect your breath and thoughts and then get out there and go again, he hasn’t really had to do that. I thought [the Bengals] was a big game for him working through that.”

Ware isn’t out there for every play like he was back in 2016, but when he is on the field, his teammates are noticing all that he is capable of.

Based upon the words of Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, having Ware as a backup is a luxury.

“I think he’s just a threat in every aspect of the game,” Mahomes said of Ware. “He can run the ball, he can catch screens out of the backfield, he can catch the ball out of the backfield and then he can pass-block better than any running back that I’ve seen.”

Pass blocking is one of the many ways Ware helps this team when he’s not touching the ball, a point of emphasis for the entire running backs room, according to Eric Bieniemy, who is serving in his first season as Chiefs offensive coordinator after coaching the running backs for five years prior.

Jacksonville Jaguars v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by David Eulitt/Getty Images

“Those guys know this because this is our philosophy,” Bieniemy said. “What can you do when the ball is not in your hands? We know what you can do when the ball is in your hands, but what can you do that’s going to provide something to our organization when the ball is not in your hands? That’s just says a lot about who Spencer is. Spencer’s willing to go out and pick up a blitz. He’s willing to do all the dirty work. He obviously does a great job on special teams. That just shows you who he is, his character. He wants to do whatever it takes for us to win.”

And we’ve noted it here before at Arrowhead Pride—Ware is more than comfortable with adversity. No team in the National Football league wanted Ware in 2014, and his injury was so bad last season that he couldn’t play.

Ware spoke about both on Friday.

“I’m grateful every day that I’m out here,” he said. “I went through a whole year without being on the field, so as far as touches, of course you want touches, but as far as my humble mentality or whatnot, of course I’m prepared, of course I want to be the starter, of course I want all these great things, but I also want to win, I also want my team to have a good chemistry.

“There’s a lot of other things that come into play, so like I said, I’ve been in a position where I couldn’t come in the locker room or couldn’t even put on the jersey or helmet for a year—two years, counting now. You can’t take those moments for granted.”

Ware knows that being in his current role comes with the territory, and rather than sulking, he’s making most of it.

“You chose this profession,” Ware said. “You want to give it your all because it’s not only about yourself. You got other people with families and you love the game. I love the game, so therefore, like I said, every time I get out there, I touch the ball or not, I’m trying to play like it’s my last because you never know when that day’s going to come.”

Ware’s last day has come twice. He’ll suit up on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.

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