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Why the Chiefs should rest Kadarius Toney for another week

The Kansas City wideout has a long injury history — which is why he should not return until Week 15.

NFL: NOV 13 Jaguars at Chiefs Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs returned to the practice field on Wednesday, following last Sunday’s 27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. While the week’s first injury report appeared pretty long — over a dozen players were listed — there was good news: everyone on the active roster had returned to the practice field.

This marked the first time since Week 1 where all Kansas City players (that is, those not on a reserve list) had begun a practice week as either a full or limited participant.

As NFL teams enter the second week of December, no team — or even player — is 100% healthy. To have every available player participating in practice is a significant advantage for the Chiefs — and should be a morale booster as they come off their third loss of the 2022 season.

As the team began its preparation for the 3-9 Denver Broncos, only two players were listed as a limited participants.

One was linebacker Nick Bolton, who was listed with a groin injury — although he played for all 72 defensive snaps against the Bengals and wasn’t referenced as an injured player by head coach Andy Reid after the game.

Also working as a limited participant was wide receiver Kadarius Toney, who continues to rehab from the hamstring injury he suffered in Week 11. Toney has missed the last two games. Wednesday was the first time he had practiced since he was injured.

Toney’s injury history

Following the trade to acquire Toney, one of the concerns about him was his injury history, which was a factor in the former first-round pick being jettisoned from the New York Giants.

Toney has now appeared in only 15 games during the first two seasons of his young professional career. Even in the games he has played, Toney has battled through injury and adversity.

In 2021, Toney was listed on the Giants’ injury report in 12 of 18 weeks. He was listed for ankle, shoulder, quadriceps and oblique injuries — and also for COVID. In 2022, Toney has been on the injury report for 10 of 14 weeks — all with a hamstring designation.

In short, for nearly 70 % of Toney’s career, he’s been listed on a team’s injury report.

These frequent injuries take a toll on a player — not just from a physical standpoint, but also from a mental perspective. Although all NFL players eventually spend time in the athletic training room to recover from injuries, it is draining to continually rehab and work — only to miss games and suffer new injuries.

What does this mean for Week 14?

Toney’s injury history should be considered as he works to return to the Kansas City lineup — not just because of the injury’s nature, but also so that he can be set up for success.

Since all soft-tissue strains — no matter how small — are actually tears, they can take longer for complete recovery. In particular, hamstring strains are also prone to re-injury — which appears to have happened with Toney; he has played in only five games this season.

For Toney to get his career back on track, he has to get healthy — and stay healthy. As the old saying goes, availability is a player’s best ability. While he returned to practice this week, it’s only been in a limited capacity so far.

This means the athletic training staff is easing him back into play — which is the correct move. The blueprint for how Kansas City deals with hamstring injuries was demonstrated by its handling of cornerback Trent McDuffie’s hamstring strain earlier this season. After a four-week stint on injured reserve, McDuffie practiced for three weeks before returning to action.

Before allowing him to fully return to action, the athletic training staff wants to see how Toney responds to a limited increase in physical activity. A gradual return also will allow the soft tissue to adapt appropriately to the new physical stress. This is especially important due to his long injury history.

The Chiefs need to handle Toney the right way, so that he will be fully available for the playoffs — but also in 2023 and beyond. Remember: he is under contract to the Chiefs for two more seasons — and as a first-round pick, could be optioned for a third.

So it is likely that barring any setbacks after returning to practice, Toney will miss at least one more game. While this will continue to hamper the Chiefs’ offense — which is missing his big-play capability — it’s the right long-term decision for both the player and the team.

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