When the Kansas City Chiefs recorded Week 15’s 27-17 victory over the New England Patriots, Kansas City linebacker Drue Tranquill was back on the field after missing almost two full games with a concussion — and with that, the team’s linebacking corps was back to full strength for the first time since Nick Bolton dislocated his wrist in October.
“We got a lot of good players in our room,” Tranquill told reporters on Thursday. “A lot of guys that can do a lot of different things for us. And so we’re certainly excited to get healthy and get back out there.”
“I remember getting over the top,” he recalled, “and AJ went to make a jump cut and kind of hit me with a flying knee — a little UFC-style — and took my lights out there for a little bit.”
That began the complicated step-by-step process of the league’s concussion protocol.
“Concussions are super subjective,” he reminded his listeners. “Like we’re constantly evolving in terms of our understanding of the brain... They’ve done a really good job in terms of the past two years of really enhancing the protocol, looking into the protocol.
“So there’s a lot of different phases; you’ve got to go through a lot of different people. You’ve got to meet with neurologists, doctors, the athletic trainers... They make sure you’re ready before they put you back out there.”
That decision came just in time. Tranquill (and his teammates) fully recognize the importance of the season’s final stretch.
“These last four games,” he remarked, “we knew would be really important in terms of building for the postseason — and [we] obviously got off to a good start there versus the Patriots.”
The Chiefs’ superstar defensive tackle Chris Jones appreciates the speed and wisdom the former Los Angeles Chargers’ linebacker has brought to his new team, calling him a wonderful addition to the defense
“He’s come in and made plays for us,” noted Jones, “[and was] even able to transition to MIKE [linebacker] when Nick Bolton went down. So it speaks volumes for what he’s able to do for this defense.”
Tranquill has exceeded expectations as a blitzer, collecting 4.5 sacks and six quarterback hits this season. He believes he has evolved a lot from the time he was leaning on his Chargers teammate Joey Bosa for pointers.
“We would spend some time during and after practice,” he recalled, “and I learned a lot of different things in terms of moving your head and shoulders — and how to utilize your hands... So I got to give him a shout-out there.”
But Tranquill has also played a key role in stopping the run. Against the Patriots, that included shutting down running back Ezekiel Elliott.
“Our No. 1 objective last week was to stop Zeke,” said Tranquill. “We knew that they were going to try to run the ball. It was a big point of emphasis for us.”
The Chiefs’ defense got it done, holding the former All-Pro to just 25 yards on 11 carries. The unit will face a similar challenge on Monday, when Kansas City hosts the Las Vegas Raiders on GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium — a team that’s coming off 63-21 beatdown of the Chargers last Thursday,
“It seems like nothing was going right for LA and everything was going right for the Raiders,” observed the linebacker. “They were capitalizing on turnovers defensively [and] capitalizing on special teams. And you know their offense was obviously turning those into touchdowns. And so it got into [being a] track meet real quick.”
That victory was without the Raiders’ star running back Josh Jacobs, who was sidelined for the Week 15 game. He is expected to be back for the return matchup with the Chiefs.
But Tranquill isn’t worried about stopping Jacobs.
“I think when we make up our mind [that] we want to stop the run — and that becomes our point of focus,” he said, “I think we can do it with anybody.”
Nor is the linebacker concerned about playing on Christmas Day. Tranquill is excited to play on the holiday — and grateful that his new team will be playing at home.
“I was telling my wife,” he revealed, “I’m like, ‘At least we’re not the Raiders — having to travel Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.’”