Chiefs coach Andy Reid has consistently said the Chiefs will take a cautious approach with running back Jamaal Charles, who continues to recover from a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Reid continued to toe that line Monday following a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter that said Charles is expected to make his debut Sunday against the Jets.
“I thought he practiced better last week,” Reid said of Charles. “(But) I haven’t even gotten that far with the docs, or (trainer) Rick (Burkholder) on that, or Jamaal for that matter. So I can’t give you accurate information on that.”
When asked if he could rule out Charles playing this week, however, Reid said he could not.
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“No, I wouldn’t rule it out,” Reid said. “I just don’t have enough information for you to put it out there.”
Charles missed the entire preseason and the Chiefs’ first two games, but he has been practicing the last two weeks on the scout team and warmed up on the field before Sunday’s 19-12 loss to the Houston Texans.
Reid said Charles told him directly last week that he wasn’t quite ready to play.
“Last week he wasn’t ready, he wasn’t quite there — but he’s getting there,” Reid said. “He says he felt like he made a lot of improvement last week. That was early in the week.”
Reid said he will know Charles is ready by keeping an open line of communication.
“(You) just make sure that he’s in a position where he’s safe,” Reid said. “You certainly don’t want to take a step backwards, all right? He’s a pretty good player so you could rush yourself, and you don’t want to do that.
“Listen, we’re not playing tiddlywinks. It’s a violent sport … you want to make sure that he’s fully recovered here.”
Charles, 29, tore his ACL last October in the Chiefs’ Week 5 loss to the Chicago Bears. He is the career leader among active running backs with 5.5 yards per carry, a mark that surpasses Hall of Famers Jim Brown (5.2), Gale Sayers (5.0) and Barry Sanders (5.0).
Reid was asked if it was reasonable to expect Charles to be the same player when he returns.
“Yeah, I think so — I think so,” Reid said. “I thought last week he looked good. Last week, you see him getting in and out of his cuts and looking like Jamaal. It’s just a matter of the endurance part and his security in how he feels about that, about the leg, and what the docs say.”
As for how Charles looks these days in practice, Reid said, “Yeah, he can still scoot.”
It might be hard to predict how much Charles will be used initially. Since his injury last year, replacements Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West have combined for a respectable 4.6 yards-per-carry average. This season, that number has swelled to 6.2 yards per carry on 30 combined attempts.
When asked if Charles might be on a pitch count when he returns, Reid did not rule it out.
“I think we would have the flexibility, definitely, to do that with the backs that we have,” Reid said.