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Frank Clark: No player fills shoes of Chris Jones

The Chiefs’ defensive line room was thrilled to see Jones back on the field on Thursday.

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NFL: Preseason-San Francisco 49ers at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, the Kansas City Chiefs welcomed defensive lineman Chris Jones back to the team, nine days after he was suddenly added to the Reserve/COVID-19 list.

Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said the Chiefs eased him in, which is why he had a limited status on Thursday’s official injury report. The expectation is that Jones may be able to get back to his usual speed on Friday.

It has to have been a tough stretch for Jones, who suddenly was pulled from the club and asked to stay home as the Chiefs traveled to Los Angeles last week in the most important game of the season.

“It sucks, man,” said fellow Chiefs defensive lineman Frank Clark, speaking to the media via Zoom on Thursday. “The last guy who wants to be out is Chris. That boy want to be out there. That’s a football player for you, if it ain’t one. Last minute, you’re planning to have all your guys around going in — especially with Chris being so instrumental to the pass rush. Those different types of plans. It’s hard when you go into the whole week, and you have a guy who’s included in everything relating to scheme.”

Jones has done everything asked of him this season, from beginning the year primarily as a defensive end, then switching more to defensive tackle — and whatever it is that is required in a given week’s game plan. Being away from the team disturbed the 27-year-old, and that was no more evident than watching his Twitter account during the game’s live broadcast.

The Chiefs missed him, too.

“A guy like that’s out, you can say, ‘Yeah, step up. Yeah, we need the next guy to step up,’ but at the end of the day, just respectfully, there’s no player that’s going to be able to step up and fill the role of a Chris Jones,” admitted Clark. “They can try their best and give their all. That’s literally what you can expect, but having a guy like him back who’s going to open up a lot of things — I know it opened up a lot of things for me.”

Jones’ presence opens things up for many Chiefs defenders along the front — and for good reason: he is absolutely relentless. According to Pro Football Focus, Jones leads the Chiefs in 2021 with 56 pressures. Clark is next with 41 — but on Thursday night, Clark only pressured Justin Herbert once — a hurry.

The Chiefs could always use Jones — but especially on Sunday against Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. At the age of 39 — and likely in his last season — Roethlisberger wants to get rid of the ball as soon as possible, something the Chiefs know well.

“It only takes two drops for him to get into his throwing rotation to get the ball out,” said Clark of Roethlisberger. “It’s not a defensive end or an interior lineman that’s going to get to the ball with a guy doing that, so hats off to him. Like I said, 17 years, he understands the strength of our team is the pass rush when it gets going, so I’m sure the last thing he wants us to do is get into a rhythm, doing that to get warmed up and for us to be hitting him.”

That’s yet another reason why it’s good for the Chiefs to get Jones back — he leads the Cheifs with 7.0 sacks on the year and he has a knack for batting the fastballs down at the line. Jones has five passes defensed in 2021; that’s only one shy of safety Tyrann Mathieu, perennially the Chiefs’ best defensive back.

“It was dope,” said Clark of seeing Jones return Thursday. “Anytime you get one of your guys — not just Chris — but any other guys, you’re happy to see them back.”