The Kansas City Chiefs suffered a major in-game injury on the second drive of Sunday’s 34-31 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Tackle Lucas Niang — already forced to move from right tackle to left after a pregame injury to starter Orlando Brown — left the field on a cart after injuring his knee. After the game, Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said that Niang tore his patellar tendon, which will end his season.
Left guard Joe Thuney — already having played much of his first season in red and gold with a broken hand — moved outside to tackle. Despite injuries to Brown and Niang, quarterback Patrick Mahomes was not sacked in the game.
“I’m really proud to be a part of this O-line group,” Thuney said after the game. “It’s a bunch of hardworking guys who love to play together. We just want to give our running backs great holes and give Pat a clean pocket. It’s a team effort. Just want to execute the plays that are called. We’ll take a look at the film and try and keep improving, keep moving forward.”
Thuney commended his coaches and teammates for their roles in making his unexpected position switch a success.
“I give credit to our O-line coaches — and the whole offensive coaching staff, they always do a great job preparing us each week,” Thuney explained. “Just kind of the next man up mentality.
“The guys in the room are great. Orlando was great. The whole group, just talking to each other [with] tips and pointers and reminders. It’s really just a unit. We’re just a next man up mentality. Just want to be out there playing, and I think that’s how everyone feels – regardless of where it is. Just want to play football — just want to win.”
Reid complimented Thuney after the game and echoed praise for the coaching staff.
“I thought Joe did a real nice job jumping in there,” said Reid in postgame remarks, “and doing it with very little reps, if any. None this week for sure. He’s a football player. Thought he did a nice job with that.
“That’s a tough thing to do. Tribute to (Chiefs offensive line coach) Andy Heck and his guys. The line, I thought, did enough of a job where we were effective for sure.”
The Chiefs signed Thuney — who played both tackle positions at North Carolina State — at the opening of free agency last offseason. At the time, the Chiefs had not yet traded for Brown, and there was some speculation that Thuney would be the starting left tackle. Thuney addressed how the difficulty of the transition and how often he takes practice reps at the position.
“I think I had a series or two at right tackle a couple years back,” Thuney recalled. “I have to take a look at the film, but there’s always things to work on and things to improve. Try and get a little better for next week.
“Left guard to left tackle is a little easier transition because your feet are kind of the same. You’ve got to be ready for whatever. I get a sprinkling of reps at tackle. Credit to the guys in the room, the O-line coaches, and the whole offensive staff preparing us every week. You never know when this stuff’s going to happen. Just got to play together and communicate the whole time and just keep trying to work and get better.”
Thuney trusts his fellow linemen and is ready to move on to the next game. Whether he starts next week’s regular-season finale at left tackle remains to be seen.
“It’s just different, a lot more space out there,” he added to his thoughts on the position. “I just wanted to do what the team needed. Wherever the team needs me, I’ll play. [We] did a great job communicating and just working together for the game.”