Lodged into the corner of the visiting locker room inside Arrowhead Stadium, Jamaal Charles hurried to pack his belongings. A throng of media waited.
His bare feet squeezed into a pair of black dress shoes. He pulled a green vest over his shoulders, without slowing to button the garment.
“Let’s just get this over with,” he muttered.
A night that started with such anticipation — with Charles returning to Kansas City for the first time since joining the Denver Broncos in the offseason — had concluded like this. With a Broncos’ 29-19 loss. With a Charles fumble providing the game’s first critical moment.
With Charles wanting it all to be done.
“I was soaking it all in, but I’m just glad it’s over with,” he said. “I’m happy it came. Now I can focus on something else, and everybody can stop asking me about this. The fans that supported me, thanks to them. Thanks to my teammates, my coaches and everything, but I’m just happy it’s over with at the end of the day.”
Charles acknowledged wanting to “prove” something to the Chiefs, the team that drafted him and the one he called home for nine NFL seasons, but also the one that released him in February.
He left Kansas City as its all-time leading rusher. He joined Denver three months ago as a backup to C.J. Anderson.
The awaited return to Kansas City “felt weird,” Charles said. But it began with promise. He busted through the middle of the offensive line for an 18-yard gain. His name was announced to moderate cheers, even after the first down.
Then the fumble.
Two plays later, on his third consecutive handoff, Charles fought for extra yardage near midfield. Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters knocked the ball loose, scooped it up and ran unbothered into the end zone.
The Chiefs led 7-0. They never trailed.
“I think I was just trying to do too much,” Charles said. “I was excited to be here. I wanted to make plays. I wanted to show everybody I can still play. I just did too much, trying to continue to move my legs. I should’ve just gave myself up.”
It was reminiscent of Charles fumbling in the same matchup — though obviously on the other side of it — in 2015, when the Broncos returned it for a late game-winning touchdown.
On Monday, Charles’ playing time was limited after the mistake, though he reappeared late in the fourth quarter. He finished with eight carries for 39 yards. He also caught a 5-yard pass. Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston commented that Charles “still has his wheels.” Linebacker Derrick Johnson offered something similar.
“I didn’t think it was going to be that weird” playing against Charles,” Johnson added. “But it was weird.”
After the game, Charles spoke with several of his former teammates. That’s when the memories returned, he said. The nine seasons in Kansas City. The 7,260 rushing yards. The 64 touchdowns.
But for 60 NFL minutes Monday, none of that mattered. They were rivals.
“It was funny, almost like practice, but you know in practice you can’t hit him. So it felt good hitting him,” Houston said, before smiling, “My first time hitting him felt good.”