Tamba Hali strolled into the Chiefs locker room Wednesday, limp free and soaking wet from head-to-toe.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Hali had just finished running in a pool in an effort to test the right ankle he injured in the Chiefs 41-38 loss to San Diego on Sunday. The injury looked bad at the time; the star outside linebacker couldnt walk off the field on his own and was carried away on a cart.
But only a few days later, Hali was happy and relieved to tell the reporters who swarmed his locker that he was optimistic about his chances of playing in the Chiefs rematch against Denver on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
I plan on playing, Hali said. I think it was an ankle sprain, a first-degree (one). (Its) just a blessing Im able to jump back and start doing things.
Unfortunately for the Chiefs, the news was still unclear on Justin Houston, Halis pass-rushing counterpart at outside linebacker. Houston, who suffered a subluxation of his right elbow, was able to have an MRI on Wednesday after the swelling was too great on Monday and Tuesday. NFL Networks Ian Rapoport reported that Houston could miss two to three weeks.
While Chiefs coach Andy Reid didnt address Houstons prognosis, he affirmed Halis belief that he will play this week. Hali participated in the morning walkthrough Wednesday and also in pre-practice drills (without a helmet), though he didnt practice, presumably as a precaution.
Every day he has made progress, Reid said. That he went through the walkthrough (today), I thought was a big step. Hes gonna tell me hes gonna play weve gotta make sure that (its) safe (for him) to be out there. Were not gonna put him in a position where he furthers the injury.
That said, when asked whether he feels 100 percent, Hali said he doesnt.
I wouldnt say that (I am), Hali said. I know I could push off (on it). I havent cut yet but I know I could push off. I havent run yet, but I believe I can do it because Ive been doing it in on the treadmill.
So, while Hali is relieved the injury isnt worse, he is determined not to put himself in position where he could injure it further.
(Its) just being honest with my body and myself, Hali said. If I can play, I can play. If I cant play, Im not gonna force it. And Im feeling real optimistic about being out there.
Hali and Houston have accounted for 20 of the Chiefs 37 sacks this season. Houston has 11 sacks; Hali nine.
Hali was hurt on the first play of the second quarter and Houston went down during the Chargers last possession of the first half Sunday.
My foot got stuck in the ground and it rolled, Hali said. I just thought Id be fine. I felt like I could play through it. You want to get it taped. But then every time I pushed, I could barely walk.
The Chargers scored 38 points against the Chiefs without Houston and Hali on the field. Hali was replaced by veteran Frank Zombo, and Houston was replaced by second-year man Dezman Moses. Between them, they generated one pressure in 55 rushes, according to Pro Football Focus. Houston and Hali had two pressures each on San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers in 19 pass rushes.
Justin and I were in the training room watching the game, and we could tell we were needed because of our experience and how ... hungry (we are) to get to the quarterback, Hali said. Our offense played well. Those are the type of games we need to be in because when they put us up like that, then we know we can pin our ears back and just be relentless.
With the rematch against Denver and star quarterback Peyton Manning looming, Hali knows things wont get any easier for the Chiefs pass rush this week.
When the Chiefs and Broncos met Nov. 17, Denver prevailed 27-17 as Manning completed 24 of 40 passes for 323 yards and a touchdown while the Chiefs failed to record a sack or a quarterback hit.
He knows where hes going with the ball, Hali said. As far as us rushing, weve got to just be a little quicker ... but watching the (Denver-New England) game the other night, he held the ball sometimes there. In our game, no, the ball was coming out. Weve just gotta make sure that when were rushing, were giving them our best shot, taking the best route to get there.
Toward the end of his session with the media Wednesday, Hali was again asked whether he feels like hell be healthy enough to be a part of that pass-rush effort Sunday. Once again, he cheerfully answered in the affirmative.
Yeah, Ill be ready to go, Hali said. This is the game we play. I cant have doubts. If I wasnt feeling good today, Id probably say I dont know. But where Im at right now, Im very positive about playing on Sunday.
To reach Terez A. Paylor, call 816-234-4489 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/TerezPaylor.