For the first time since high school, Chiefs running back Spencer Ware returns as his team’s leading rusher.
He’s ready for all that comes with that.
“It’s a lot of responsibility as far as showing leadership on the field,” Ware said Wednesday following the Chiefs’ organized team activities. “No pressure, though. I go out every day and work every day.”
Ware, 25, has played behind Stevan Ridley and Jeremy Hill at LSU, Marshawn Lynch with the Seattle Seahawks and Jamaal Charles with the Chiefs.
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He arrived at OTAs as the team’s primary running back after rushing for 921 yards and adding 447 receiving yards on 33 receptions in 2016.
He logged 214 of the team’s 412 rushing attempts, more than doubling his 2015 production, when he became an NFL regular for the first time.
In March 2016, Ware signed a two-year deal worth $3.6 million on the same day and for the same amount as fellow running back Charcandrick West. After a 2015 season in which Ware and West combined for 1,037 yards and 10 touchdowns while carrying the load for an injured Charles over the final 10 games, the Chiefs locked in their running back depth.
Charles’ knee injury never healed properly and Ware and West remained the primary ball carriers last season, with Ware getting the lion’s share of the attempts.
The running back position has gone through some changes since the end of last season. Charles is now a member of the Denver Broncos, the Chiefs used their third-round draft pick to select Toledo running back Kareem Hunt and they also added veteran free agent C.J. Spiller.
But as offseason camp continues, all eyes are on Ware to build on his 2016 season.
“I felt like I played hard, executed my job and helped my team get Ws,” Ware said.
As for the position movement around him, Ware can hardly do more than well-wish.
“We’ll miss (Charles),” Ware said. “He will always have a place in our heart. He was a brother, a leader. He displayed it on and off the field and we learned from him. Now that he’s going, we wish him well and we’re going to fill those shoes.”
Part of that “we” is Hunt, who rushed for 1,475 yards in college last season. He also fulfills a requirement of the Andy Reid offense — pass-receiving ability. Hunt had 41 receptions last season.
“We welcome everybody to the (running backs) room,” Ware said. “We’re trying to get better. … We’re not out there trying to throw shade on each other. We’re out there as a group trying to help each other.”
For the majority of his career, Ware was one of those other guys in the running backs room and on the depth chart. Now, he has a view from the top and the approach doesn’t change.
“Same work ethic, same mind-set,” Ware said. “Just a little bit older and mature.”