There had been some hope that a playoff bye week would allow Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman to return to the field for the first time since Week 9 when the team faces the Jacksonville Jaguars for Saturday’s Divisional Round matchup. But that glimmer of hope seems a lot less bright following head coach Andy Reid’s first press conference of the week on Tuesday.
Reid announced Hardman would be the only member of the 53-man roster not practicing as the team began working on its game plan for the Jaguars.
“Really, it’s just Mecole,” said Reid of the players missing practice. “We’re just going to back off him a little bit, see if we can’t get it feeling better. He’s been pushing hard. It’s not responding in the way that he wants it, or we want it to, so we’ll back off on that.”
What was initially referred to by the club as an abdomen and illness sent the fourth-year receiver to injured reserve at midseason. After returning to the practice field, Hardman suffered setbacks, leading the team’s athletic training staff to use the full 21 practice days allotted before activating him to the main roster on January 4.
After that, Hardman was listed on the team’s official injury report with a “pelvis” injury. Though he practiced limitedly on Wednesday and Thursday of that week before officially being ruled questionable, he did not suit up against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Reid says that the team and Hardman (who they have described as day to day) still believe that he might be available at some point this postseason.
“He does — and we do, yeah,” confirmed Reid. “We want to try not to take steps back, here. It’s not that we’ve taken steps back; it’s just that it’s not getting where it needs to be — where he can go. So my feeling is, if we just back off on it and let it rest a little bit here and do his rehab and that, he has a chance to get better. He doesn’t want it, and we don’t want to put him out in a bad situation where he can’t play.”
In Hardman’s absence, the Chiefs have missed his 4.33 40-yard dash time, which allows for dynamic, explosive plays out of the backfield.
“He’s got a special type of speed — a special type of speed,” said quarterback Patrick Mahomes in his turn at the podium. “He does a great job, if it’s jet sweeps or stretching the field vertically, and he’s gotten better and better at making those tough catches. We’ve done a great of replacing that with other guys, but having Mecole... [he] is a special type of player, and he’s done a lot of great things for this offense.”
Reid added that defensive end Frank Clark, who left Week 18’s game with a groin injury, was progressing. Wide receiver Skyy Moore, who lacerated his hand in Week 17 and had to sit out the final game of the regular season, was spotted during the team’s brief media look. At that time, Moore appeared to have no problem catching the football.
Back from injured reserve
Reid also confirmed that running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire and tight end Jody Fortson would also take the field on Tuesday, meaning the Chiefs have officially designated them for a return from injured reserve.
In late November, the Chiefs placed Edwards-Helaire on injured reserve due to a high-ankle sprain. A month later, Fortson joined him on the list with an elbow subluxation.
“We’re going to ease them back in,” said Reid of the duo. “[We’ll] just see how they do — try to get them back in the swing of things.”
Mahomes is eager to seed both Edwards-Helaire and Fortson back in the lineup.
“Any time you get talented players back, it helps the whole team — not just the offense but everybody,” he explained. “To have that energy in the locker room again, to have it on the football field — and both those guys are special types of players where they can do different things than the guys that we already have in there. Just having as many people back healthy as possible is going to be great for us — because we’ll have different options to utilize as we continue to try to build and get better and better and win these playoff games.”
Just because Edwards-Helaire and Fortson are practicing does not mean the Chiefs will activate them for the playoffs. All Tuesday’s move means is they can practice for Kansas City without being on the active roster for the next 21 days. Either may be activated to the roster at any time during that period — but if they aren’t, they are done for the season.