For the Kansas City Chiefs to repeat as Super Bowl champions, one of the key factors will be keeping their players healthy. After completing their training camp at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph on Thursday, the Chiefs will have a steeper hill to climb than during last season’s championship run.
A year ago, Kansas City finished its preseason in a great position, with just one player to the team’s Reserve/Injured (injured reserve) list. Going into the regular season, the team’s Week 1 injury report didn’t have a single player with an injury designation.
Things will almost certainly look different as the club faces the Detroit Lions in 2023’s season opener. The team currently has three players on the Reserve/Injured list — although one or two of them may soon be released with injury settlements. For the team’s final training camp practice on Thursday, seven injured players did not participate.
One of them was cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, whose swollen knee caused him to miss a total of 12 training camp practices beginning on July 29. Little has been reported about it — and the team has downplayed it, saying that holding him out of practice has been a “precautionary” measure.
Now that Sneed has also missed the first two preseason games, he will surely be held out of the final preseason matchup against the Cleveland Browns this Saturday. Although he has missed time on the field, he has maintained his leadership in position group and defensive meetings.
But it might be time to worry more about Sneed’s availability.
Sneed’s injury timeline
The cornerback suffered a concussion in the first quarter of the AFC Championship, but passed through concussion protocol to play in Super Bowl LVII. But in the week before the championship game, Sneed appeared on the injury report as a limited participant with a knee injury.
On the field, however, Sneed’s injury did not appear to limit him; he played every defensive snap in the championship game. No offseason surgical procedure or intervention was reported. We also don’t know whether Sneed’s current issue is with the same knee that was bothering him at the end of last season.
While Sneed was held out of minicamp with knee swelling, it was reported at that time that he would be ready for training camp — and he was. But he participated only in camp’s first week of practice before being held out once again.
On August 15, head coach Andy Reid said that Sneed would be back for the season.
“We’re just – again — taking that slow,” said Reid, “but yeah: we’ll get him back sooner [rather] than later.”
Sneed’s knee swelling could be the result of many different things; with the available information, it’s impossible to give a specific diagnosis. While possible causes would include a muscle or ligament sprain, it could also simply be from overuse. But based on the team’s handling of wide receiver Kadarius Toney’s partially torn meniscus, we can infer that Sneed’s injury is not as serious as Toney’s.
If the team thought it was more serious, it’s likely that it would have been addressed in the offseason — or earlier in training camp. It could also be that since Sneed is entering a contract year, he is simply choosing to rest it as much as he can, so that he will miss as little regular-season time as possible.
The bottom line
It’s not unusual for veteran NFL players to be held out of the preseason — even when healthy — but especially when there are injury concerns. The season can be a grueling marathon — and having a key player like Sneed as healthy as possible would be a clear goal for Week 1.
We should also remember that missing practice time does not mean that Sneed is simply standing on the sidelines. He is spending that time rehabbing the knee, undergoing modalities to reduce swelling and promote tissue healing — and taking mental reps so thst he will be prepared to lead his young teammates in the secondary. If he’s healthy enough to play, he will surely be ready when called upon.
The alarming trend about this issue is that is has been going on for the past two months, which leads to concern that it will be a lingering problem throughout the season. That would not be good for the defense, which already has a big question mark because of defensive tackle Chris Jones’ absence.
All indications suggest that the team is doing everything in its power to have Sneed ready for Week 1. But if the veteran is unable to return to practice in at least a limited capacity during the next two weeks, the alarm bells will only get louder.