Last year, running back Jamaal Charles underwent knee surgery for the second time in his Chiefs career. But having endured the rehabilitation and recovery once was of no use to Charles the second time.
“The doctor told me, ‘Don’t treat it like you did the first one,’ ” Charles said. “It’s totally different, just like every knee is different.”
Where Charles and the Chiefs hope to connect history is in the post-surgery production. In 2012, the season after he tore his left ACL, Charles rushed for a career best 1,509 yards.
It’s unlikely he’ll reach the figure this season for a few reasons. In 2012, the Chiefs finished 2-14 and Charles was basically the team’s only offensive threat in the year before Coach Andy Reid arrived.
In the Reid offense, Charles has been superb with 1,000-yard rushing seasons and 70 receptions in his first two years.
He was on pace for another 1,000-yard season last year when Charles tore his right ACL in the fifth game.
The hope was for Charles to be back for the beginning of training camp, but he missed the first couple of weeks, returning to the field during the last week in St. Joseph.
Still, Charles said he feels strong.
“When I step on the field, even just at practice I’m able to work hard and show everyone out here that I’m good to go,” Charles said. “When we get to games, I’ll do what it takes to get ready.”
It appears Charles’ first game will be the season opener Sept. 11 against the Chargers at Arrowhead Stadium. He hasn’t stepped on the field during the preseason and is unlikely to appear in Thursday’s final tune-up, against the Packers.
Reid didn’t commit to the playing time plan for Charles or linebacker Tamba Hali, who also is returning from a knee injury and slowly working his way back.
“I can’t predict,” Reid said. “I would tell you that Tamba is a little further along. But both of them are making progress. With both of them, you don’t have to worry about the work ethic.
“With Jamaal, it’s getting trust in the leg, and so every day he does a little bit more. His cuts are a bit sharper. It’s just a matter of time and we’re OK with that.”
The Chiefs are in good shape at running back. Spencer Ware had taken the bulk of first-team snaps in the preseason. Charcandrick West, who was injured in the first preseason game, should return for Thursday’s contest. Ware and West were the running backs during the Chiefs’ 10-game winning streak to end the 2015 regular season.
But Charles is a weapon, the Chiefs career rushing leader (7,220 yards) who is eager to pick up where he left off, for a second time.
“I’m ready for what the coaches ask,” Charles said. “I’m ready, happy and looking forward to getting on the field.”