One of the biggest worries you have when a star player has sat out significant time is that you don’t know what sort of shape will they be in when they return. This was certainly true with Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones.
Since he’s returned to the lineup after a lengthy contract dispute, it’s been hard to find any indication that has had trouble jumping right back into the swing of things. On Thursday, Chiefs defensive line coach Joe Cullen said it was no surprise to the team that Jones returned ready to roll.
“We stayed in great touch with Chris,” said Cullen. “Chris is going to come back in great shape. And that’s what he did.”
Cullen went on to say that Jones’ commitment to staying in shape was evident in his first game back against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
“You know, the thing that was evident in the Jacksonville game,” said Cullen. “The weather was 100 — they said 117, whatever it was on the field — but the thing that stuck out the most is the second-to-last play of the game on defense. Chris had the sack with Felix [Anudike-Uzomah], but that rush looked stronger than the first sack he had earlier in the game. And so that means he was in pretty good shape.”
Some might point to Jones’ decreased snap count last week against the Chicago Bears as a sign that perhaps his body is not prepared for the rigors of a 17-week NFL season, but Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo explained that Jones sitting for most of the second half against the Bears was more a by-product of Kansas City blowing Chicago out than it was of Jones wearing down.
“It got into the third quarter, and I think coach [Andy[ Reid and I, we wanted to protect one of our top players,” he said. “And then slowly we got some of those other guys out too — some didn’t play as many reps either, and that’s a good thing.”
Another factor was that the Chiefs were on the field for fewer total defensive snaps than usual.
“I think we had 53 [snaps] as a defense,” he said. “I’d like to play 53 plays every week because, down the road, that’s helpful... There hasn’t been a moment in the game where we felt he’s been winded.”
But that doesn’t mean they aren’t still being cautious in how they ramp him up to full workload.
“Hopefully, we get to the point where he’s playing that 50-55 plays like he was last year, but a little bit of a blessing that the game went the way it did last week and we could do that.”