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Examining the ACL tear suffered by Chiefs’ Charles Omenihu — what’s the timetable?

The defensive lineman will miss the Super Bowl, but when can the Chiefs expect him to return?

AFC Divisional Playoffs - Kansas City Chiefs v Buffalo Bills Photo by Perry Knotts/Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs did not leave their AFC Championship victory unscathed. As they begin preparations for Super Bowl LVIII, the team will be without defensive lineman Charles Omenihu, who suffered a torn ACL against the Baltimore Ravens.

Omenihu was surely motivated to go against his former team, the San Francisco 49ers, in the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, he is going to miss more than just championship Sunday.

Following surgery from a torn ACL, return to play will be at least nine months, but potentially longer. A quicker return to play is also assuming there is no other ligamentous or meniscus damage suffered. If other structures within the knee joint are injured, the recovery timeline is obviously longer.

The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is one of four main stabilizing ligaments for the knee. It is crucial in providing stability for running, jumping and cutting — and generally giving the knee the support it needs for any power move. The ACL functions to prevent forward translation of the tibia (shin bone) on the femur (thigh bone), as well as providing rotational stability.

Surgical reconstruction of an ACL involves a soft tissue graft replacing the torn ligament, tissue either from a person’s own body, donor, or cadaver. The months of rehab involve restoring range of motion, quadriceps function, lower extremity strengthening, as well as static and dynamic stability for the knee joint.

Omenihu will likely be undergoing surgery very soon in order to start his rehab process and preparations for the 2024 season. Assuming all goes well with his surgery and rehab, as well as a nine-month timeframe, Omenihu may be ready to return in late September or October. Some defensive linemen returning from ACL injuries often take closer to 11 to 12 months to return.

For reference, Chiefs’ defensive lineman Tershawn Wharton returned from an ACL tear in week 3 (September 24) after suffering the injury in week 5 (October 10) of the 2022 season. This is almost a complete year removed from the injury.

Other prominent defensive linemen returning from ACL tears include Von Miller (10 months), Chase Young (12 months), Nick Bosa (injured week 2 in 2020 and returned for entirety of 2021).

AFC Wild Card Playoffs - Miami Dolphins v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

I fully expect Omenihu to be placed on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list to begin the 2024 season, miss the entirety of the offseason program and training camp, and potentially a portion of the regular season.

Omenihu enjoyed a successful first campaign with the Chiefs. He finished the regular season with 28 tackles, 7.0 sacks, and two forced fumbles. His most impactful play of the season came in the AFC Championship, when he strip sacked quarterback Lamar Jackson for a turnover in the second quarter for a Chiefs takeaway.

After taking care of business in the Super Bowl, the Chiefs will have several questions along the defensive line entering the offseason. Defensive linemen Chris Jones, Mike Danna, Derrick Nnadi, and Wharton are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents. Nnadi suffered a triceps injury this postseason and will also miss the Super Bowl.

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