The Chiefs spent all season resting outside linebacker Tamba Hali in hopes of having him at his very best for the playoffs.
But when it came down to it Sunday, Hali barely saw the field. He played a season-low seven snaps in the Chiefs’ 18-16 playoff loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
It’s a curiously low figure, considering the club had been resting Hali and his balky knees during most weekly practices, and Hali’s sacks (3 1/2 ) and pressures (nine) ranked third on the team, despite playing only 51 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, down from 77 percent a year ago.
But don’t expect Hali, 33, to hang it up any time soon. The 11-year veteran intends to play next year — and likely beyond — a source told The Star on Monday. Hali would like to play four more seasons, the source said, and believes he still has plenty left in the tank.
Hali, who signed a three-year, $21 million extension in the offseason, compiled six sacks and 18 pressures in 838 snaps a year ago, so his 2016 numbers weren’t far off that mark, given the fact he played 234 fewer plays alongside the emergent Dee Ford, who led the team with 10 sacks and 17 pressures this season, and star Justin Houston, who returned from offseason knee surgery to play 354 snaps in six games.
However, Hali played five fewer snaps on Sunday than fellow edge rusher Frank Zombo, and seven fewer than backup interior defensive lineman Kendall Reyes. Hali also played 10 fewer than backup defensive lineman Jarvis Jenkins, who — like Reyes — was signed at midseason.
“It all kind of depends on how the game goes in certain situations, and they were mostly running the ball,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said when quizzed about Hali’s light workload. “We were using Tamba in mostly pass situations, and that’s how it ended up.”
The Chiefs were coming off a first-round bye, however, meaning Hali — who said in late December that he was feeling fresh and ready to go for the playoffs — likely would have been capable of handling a bigger workload.
“Yeah I thought he did some good things,” Reid said, when asked if the plan to keep Hali fresh throughout the course of the season worked. “He did some good things early and he did some good things later in the season.
“Is he the same as when he was 20? No, but that’s why we had that plan in place for him.”
Hali’s contract next season includes a cap number of $8.5 million. The Chiefs would actually lose cap space — approximately $333,334, according to overthecap.com — by releasing him. Zombo, Houston and Ford are also under contract for next year, so it will be interesting to see how the snaps shake out in 2017.
Hali has 89 1/2 career sacks, second-most in team history behind Derrick Thomas, who had 126 1/2 .