Surely as much or more than any other Chief, running back Jamaal Charles craved a fresh start after the unbearable 2012 season. And that extends well beyond the pleasant fact that new coach Andy Reid’s West Coast offense seems contoured to Charles’ considerable skill set.
“Man, we’ve gotthose
plays now,” he said, smiling, after practice Tuesday morning.
But the spirit of revival in Charles is about something much more profound and poignant and painful than mere football, something he brought up himself when asked about the importance of regime change and the launching of a new era after the 2-14 debacle that was only a sliver of the misery of 2012.
“I mean, last season was a hard season personally for me, having somebody pass away close to my family,” he said, broaching the topic publicly for the first time. “And it’s hard, but you have to move on.
“Things can either hurt you or make you stronger. So I pray to God every night, and he’s still blessing me, and I’m still alive and everything happens for a reason.”
If so, it will be an eternally elusive one in the instance of the murder-suicide committed Dec. 1 by former teammate Jovan Belcher, whose victim, Kasandra Perkins, is a first cousin to Charles’ wife, Whitney.
Charles had known Perkins since eighth grade, he said, and Whitney introduced Belcher to Perkins.
He can’t put away the trauma of that day, Charles said, which still “brings goosebumps (meaning chills) and shock to me.”
“Man, not just Jovan, but (Perkins) was a sister to me, and she’s like a sister to my wife, so it’s hard,” Charles said. “At the same time, my wife still is getting through those tough days. And thinking about her, she cries still.
“But we’ve got to just start over again. You’ve got to just bring all of the memories you had with her. And since she’s not here any more, you’ve still got to continue to just bring all the memories with you that she (created) when she was alive.”
It was a therapeutic step forward, Charles suggested, when last month Jackson County probate commissioner Daniel Wheeler granted custody of the couple’s 9-month-old daughter, Zoey, to Sophie Perkins, who is Whitney Charles’ sister.
Though he was concerned the ruling “hurt Jovan’s family,” which also had sought custody, Charles said, “It was good for the family and good for us Now they can see Zoey every day (to) remind them of” her mother.
As Charles still works to process and reconcile what happened, it’s hard for him to quantify how he has been changed by it.
“I mean, it’s life, you know what I’m saying?” he said, managing a smile. “You just pray to God, you can just put everything in his hands and you just follow him.”
In the most tangible application of how he is following, Charles is expecting to become stronger and better than ever this season at age 25.
“I just say, ‘Watch out and see,’ ” he said, laughing.
That’s in part because of how he believes he is responding to new demands upon him.
“I’ve never practiced like this before,” he said. “And you’ve got to fight through it, and you’ve got to have a strong mind and a strong heart to finish through these hard practices when you’re tired and your body’s tightening up and your muscles are tightening up.”
It’s also in part because of how his versatility (4,536 career yards rushing, 152 career receptions) figures to fit in the schemes of Reid, who says Charles’ tools of pure speed, route-running speed and good hands make him “capable of doing the same things that” Brian Westbrook and LeSean McCoy did in prolific proportions for Reid with Philadelphia.
“He’s a matchup mismatch with the ball in his hands, all over the field,” quarterback Alex Smith said. “I don’t think there’s really any situation in football you couldn’t really have him in. I think he’s that versatile.
“Which is a credit to him. Which is nice. That helps us expand our playbook, because he can do so much.”
All elements of a vital change for Charles, who just had to start over again.
“It’s a changed thing for me, everything: From the day it happened, from all the coaches (changing) to the new players. It’s a lot of stuff going on,” he said, smiling and adding, “Life is good.”