The Chiefs’ newest defensive lineman was asked a familiar question Wednesday, one he knew was coming but was a tad frustrating.
Are you healthy?
“Man, look — yeah,” Kevin Vickerson said, intently. “And I’m gonna show the world that I’m healthy.
“I’m glad to be here, I’m glad I got the opportunity … It’s just, that’s been a question that’s been circling (me), just ‘Are you healthy? Are you healthy?’ I’m healthy, yes.”
Vickerson, 31, was a four-year starter in Denver who was released by the Broncos in late August. He logged 22 tackles and a sack in 11 games last season before he was placed on injured reserve in November because of an injured hip.
He returned after Denver’s Super Bowl run but was released during the final cuts of camp despite logging five tackles in the Broncos’ last preseason game.
“Life in the NFL, that’s all,” said Vickerson, who appeared in all 16 games for the Broncos in 2012. “That’s all I was trying to do, just go out and play hard and show that I was healthy. Business is business.”
Now he finds himself preparing to face his former team on Sunday, the continuation of a strange trend for the nine-year veteran, who is playing for his fifth team.
“That’s crazy because every time I’ve went somewhere else, I’ve always played my former team the first game,” Vickerson said. “I got traded from Tennessee to Seattle, ended up playing Tennessee the first (preseason) game (in 2010). Got released by Seattle, got picked up by Denver, ended up playing Seattle the second game (in 2010).
“Same thing, seen it all before. Game don’t change.”
Vickerson’s extensive experience is a major reason the Chiefs decided to bring in the 6-foot-5, 328-pounder after defensive end Mike DeVito suffered a season-ending injury.
In Mike DeVito’s absence, Chiefs coach Andy Reid initially said Monday that they planned to lean on defensive ends Jaye Howard and Vance Walker, the latter of which signed a three-year, $13 million free-agent contract this offseason. But Reid also hinted that they would explore outside options, and on Wednesday, Reid explained why they settled on signing Vickerson.
“He was somebody we were very concerned about last year when we played them,” Reid said. “I told him (that) when he got hurt, I felt bad for him … but I can’t tell you I was the saddest guy in the world because he’s a pretty substantial load there and a good football player.”
Last year, Vickerson posted a Pro Football Focus grade of negative-9.0, which ranked 56th out of 69 NFL tackles who logged at least 25 percent of their team’s defensive snaps. It was a departure from the prior season, when he logged a grade of negative-2.0 in 2012 in 135 more snaps.
But Vickerson’s run-defense grade of 1.3 ranked 28th, and his run-defense grade of 1.2 in 2012 ranked 18th out of 85 qualifying tackles.
Vickerson touted his run defense as a strength when asked what the can Chiefs expect of him in the absence of DeVito, who ranked fourth among 45 qualifying 3-4 defensive ends with a run-defense grade of 16.2 last season.
“Being physical, just being myself,” Vickerson said. “Being dominant against the run … and coming in with an attitude, man, giving this team that attitude. I definitely play with a chip on my shoulder and that’s how I’m going to approach my season.”
Considering the constant questions about his health, it’s a solid bet that that chip won’t be getting any smaller any time soon.
“I’m trying to get another year on my deal,” Vickerson said. “At the end of the day, that’s my business part of it. It’s me trying to get some more years to take care of my family. So I’m going to play my (brand of) ball.”