The inactive list for the Chiefs’ preseason opener was 10 players long, but the actives included a pair of defenders who felt the playing turf beneath their feet for the first time since suffering season-ending
injuries in 2016.
Linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive end Allen Bailey took the field as starters Friday against the San Francisco 49ers at Arrowhead Stadium.
Johnson played the entire first quarter and recorded one tackle. He was back on the field where he last played, suffering a torn Achilles tendon in a December game against the Raiders.
“Playing out here and being back is a blessing,” Johnson said. “Every chance I get to be on the field is getting me better and better, and I’m almost 100 percent, so I can’t ask for anything more.”
The Chiefs missed Johnson’s leadership and run-stopping ability over the season’s final month and in the home playoff loss to the Steelers.
Johnson was on the field throughout the first quarter on Friday, and helped keep the 49ers out of the end zone. In a possession that spanned the first and second quarters, San Francisco drove 92 yards but settled for a
“We played tougher when they got closer to the end zone, and that’s all you can ask for,” Johnson said.
Bailey turned in a big play early. On the 49ers second snap, he crashed and dropped running back Carlos Hyde for a 2-yard loss. The 49ers went three and out on the possession.
“I saw the formation, leaning more to the left,” Bailey said. “I kind of widened out, prepared for that and bam! That’s what I was missing.”
Bailey started five games last season before injuring his shoulder, interrupting a career on the upswing.
He spent his first three years as a reserve and became a starter in 2014. Bailey came up with five sacks that season, 4 1⁄2 the next.
“Got some real game snaps under my belt, it’s been about 10 months,” Bailey said.
His absence provided opportunity for Rakeem Nunez-Roches and rookie Chris Jones. But in the offseason the Chiefs reshaped the defensive front by releasing tackle Dontari Poe and end Jaye Howard and adding Bennie Logan and Roy Miller after drafting Tanoh Kpassagnon from Villanova in the second round.
Bailey, Logan and Jones are listed as starters, but only Bailey wasn’t on the inactive list Friday. The seven-year pro who has played his entire career with the Chiefs is something of an elder statesman at
the position, and he accepts the responsibility that comes with it.
“I’m one of the older guys now,” Bailey said. “I’m getting the young guys going and the new guys used to the defense.”
Two other defenders were getting acclimated to game action after missing time. Linebackers Justin March-Lillard, who was injured in the same game as Bailey and missed the rest of the regular season
with a hand injury, entered Friday’s game in the first half. So did linebacker Josh Mauga, a former two-year starter for the Chiefs who sat out all of last season while recovering from a hip injury.