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Reggie Ragland yet to practice, but coaches and teammates staying upbeat

Big things are expected from Ragland, but so far he hasn’t seen the field

NFL: AFC Wild Card-Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Many Kansas City Chiefs fans have high hopes for linebacker Reggie Ragland in 2018.

But just under a year ago, when the Chiefs acquired Ragland—a 2016 second round pick for the Buffalo Bills—there was a serious question about his ability to stay on the field. After suffering a knee injury, he hadn’t played a single snap for the Bills in 2016.

But new Chiefs general manager Brett Veach was a Ragland fan, and he jumped at the opportunity to acquire him in exchange for a 2019 fourth-round pick.

NFL Draft - Red Carpet
Ragland, the 2016 NFL Draft, where he’d be selected by Buffalo.
Photo by Kena Krutsinger/Getty Images

At the time, our own Joel Thorman put it this way: “The best case scenario is Ragland is your starting inside linebacker within a year. The worst case scenario is that he never plays because he’s not healthy.”

Ragland beat that timetable, playing in all 16 regular season games for the Chiefs in 2017. He started 10 of them, and gained a reputation as a hard-hitting player.

In his review of the Chiefs linebacker corps in June, Arrowhead Pride’s Matt Stagner noted that the trade for Ragland essentially started the Brett Veach era in Kansas City, and it looked like a good move.

He came on strong in the middle of 2017 and appears to have become a leader on the defense. We know he can hit and stop the run and we think he can help a bit in zone coverage. The question is this: can he do enough to stay on the field for all three downs?

AP’s Matt Lane came to a similar conclusion in his Pro Scouting Series report on Ragland published in June, rating him as an above-average starter.

If Ragland can maintain the same level of dominant box linebacker while expanding his role on passing downs, then his game will be taken to the next level.

Ragland should only continue to improve as a run defender as well as he sees more consistent snaps and gets more reps reading blocks while on the move.

Ragland’s leadership and work ethic could lead him to a big step up in his play and impact this year.

But 2018’s training camp is now underway, and Ragland hasn’t taken the field.

He reported to camp with a swollen knee that apparently occurred during his flight to Kansas City — a common problem for athletes, as explained by our own Aaron Borgmann - and was placed on the non-football injury (NFI) list.

Head coach Andy Reid initially said that holding Ragland out was a precautionary move, and that his status would be evaluated day-to-day. But it is concerning that the swelling has still not subsided, as Ragland remains on the NFI list.

Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton put the best face he could on the situation during his press appearance on Sunday.

Oakland Raiders v Kansas City Chief Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

“It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get Reggie right away,” he said. “But the plus side of it is that some of these guys are going to come in here and take advantage of these opportunities and get a chance to play with all the first team guys.”

One of those guys was Ukeme Eligwe, who was held out of Monday’s practice with what was described as a “foot strain” suffered on Sunday.

Fellow Chiefs linebacker Anthony Hitchens isn’t worried.

“I don’t want to speak much on his injury, but he’s going through something right now,” he told reporters on Monday. “He just needs to take his time and get healthy. We have time. I’m going on my fifth year. I’ve had injuries like that, and they slowed me down. There’s no use in rushing back before you’re healthy and pull something.”

“We’re still learning in the classroom together as a group,” he added. “And he and I are still talking together - we sit next to each other in meetings - so it’ll come around.”

New Chiefs defensive lineman Xavier Williams echoed Hitchens’ comments.

“He’s been talking to the guys, doing all he can. When you’re in a position where you can’t really get on the field, your main job is to try and keep the energy up, stay lighthearted, and keep everybody focused,” he said. “You don’t want anybody getting down too much — especially as early in camp it is right now — so you just do whatever you can. And that’s what he’s been doing.”

Whether the swelling in Ragland’s knee is a temporary problem that will soon subside and become a long-forgotten footnote to 2018’s training camp — or whether it represents a more serious problem with an old injury — is not yet known.

The Chiefs are taking no chances.

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