With the Chiefs’ first-round playoff game against Indianapolis two days away, the status of two key players — outside linebacker Tamba Hali and right tackle Eric Fisher — is up in the air.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Hali missed the game against the Chargers on Sunday because of swelling in his knee. Fisher strained his groin in practice Tuesday. Both missed the last two days of practice.
The team will announce Friday each player’s official status — probable, questionable, doubtful or out — but Reid said Thursday he would like to see the swelling come down in Hali’s knee.
“It’s really just a matter of the swelling coming down in the knee,” Reid said. “It’s been up. We want to get it out of there. We’ve been a little cautious with him today. Let’s just see how it goes.”
Later, Reid was asked how a missed week of practice would affect a veteran such as Hali, who went through light warmups earlier in the week.
“We just have to make sure he’s OK to play,” Reid said. “We’re not going to put him out there if can’t play. I think at this point of the year, he knows the scheme and he’s got it down. The important thing is the swelling is out of his knee and we’re sure that what’s causing the swelling is a position where it’s not hurting him for the future.”
Tackle Donald Stephenson figures to be in line to get the start at right tackle if Fisher can’t play.
Stephenson has flipped between right tackle and left tackle for the Chiefs all year, and he has started the last four games at left tackle for Branden Albert, who was out because of a knee sprain but is expected to return Saturday.
“It’s very hard to do,” Albert said of the versatility Stephenson has shown. “You’ve got to be a special person to do it. I think Donald has done a good job in showing his versatility. Him understanding there’s different mechanics on both sides when you switch. And he’s been doing a good job in the game plan and executing things for the last some odd weeks. I was out for a while; you know Fish is out. He’s been doing a good job.”
Stephenson said he has risen to the challenge thanks to the hard work he did this offseason.
“That was my goal this offseason, just be one of the five best blockers,” Stephenson said. “I worked on that and I treated myself as I was a starter, and it’s paid off for me.”
The Chiefs’ Dexter McCluster was selected AFC special teams player of the month for December after returning 12 punts for 232 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown at Washington.
McCluster returned seven punts for a franchise-record 177 yards in the 45-10 win at Washington. His 19.3-yard punt-return average in December ranked first in the AFC and second in the NFL, trailing Chicago’s Devin Hester, who averaged 19.4 yards.
McCluster, who was selected to the Pro Bowl this season, is the first Chief to win special teams player of the month honors since Dante Hall in 2003.
“I couldn’t have done it without those guys blocking for me,” McCluster said. “It goes to show, if you keep working hard and believing in yourself and letting opportunity come to you, good things will come. And it’s all falling into place.”
Reid has spent many years cultivating a reputation for using his tight ends, which is why the production the Chiefs have received from the position this year is a bit of a surprise.
In his previous four years in Philadelphia, Reid’s tight ends combined to catch an average of 72 passes for 855 yards. The Chiefs’ tight ends this year, led by Anthony Fasano and Sean McGrath, have caught 54 passes for only 537 yards.
On Thursday, Reid was asked whether he might start looking more for Fasano, who has been battling injuries.
“He’s healthy now and he feels good, and that’s a good thing,” Reid said. “I think we’ve gotten good production out of McGrath. I was pleasantly surprised by how well’s he’s played. It’s just, he didn’t have a lot of reps in this thing during camp and he came in and picked it up fast and has been very productive for us. But it’s good to have Fasano healthy and back in there.”
Colts’ Mathis honored
Indianapolis outside linebacker Robert Mathis was selected AFC defensive player of the month for December.
Mathis registered 17 tackles, five sacks and four forced fumbles as he helped the Colts to a 4-1 record in December. Mathis’ five sacks were the most in the AFC in December. He registered at least one sack in four of the Colts’ five games in the month.
Mathis led the league with 19 1/2 sacks in 2013.
Whole lot of shakin’
Dan Meers, who performs as the Chiefs’ KC Wolf mascot, was at the Chiefs facility on Thursday. Meers, 46, suffered serious injuries that required hospitalization while rehearsing a skit at Arrowhead Stadium in November. He was released from the hospital two weeks ago.
The Chiefs’ Randy Covitz contributed to this report.