Chiefs wide receiver/punt returner Dexter McCluster missed a second day of practice on Friday while recovering from an infection caused by a cut in his ankle suffered in last week’s game at Washington.
The Chiefs listed McCluster as questionable for Sunday’s game at Oakland. Offensive tackle Brandon Albert (knee), outside linebacker Justin Houston (elbow) and tight end Anthony Fasano (concussion) were ruled out.
McCluster underwent a procedure for the infection on Thursday as well as other tests, and Chiefs head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder said, “I know the big question is, ‘Does he have MRSA?’ but we don’t know that because we don’t have all the cultures back.”
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers this year have had at least three players diagnosed with MRSA — a staph infection that is resistant to some antibiotics — including former Chiefs kicker Lawrence Tynes.
McCluster practiced on Wednesday but was bothered by a sore and swollen ankle that resulted from a small cut sustained in last Sunday’s game at Washington. He returned punts for a club-record 177 yards, including a 74-yard touchdown, in that game.
Burkholder said McCluster underwent an MRI and an X-ray, and there was no structural damage, but they followed protocol for when a player has an infection and drew blood, did a swab on the infection site and put McCluster on antibiotics.
On Thursday morning, McCluster did not quite respond to the initial treatment, said Burkholder, and he was taken to club physician Cris Barnthouse, who performed a minor procedure.
“They opened the wound, cleaned it out, got him on an IV and antibiotics, and he was released (Friday),” Burkholder said. “He still has a chance to play on Sunday because it’s basically a laceration that he had an infection in.”
• The Raiders said running backs Darren McFadden (ankle) and Jeremy Stewart are out for Sunday; safety Tyvon Branch (ankle) and defensive tackle Vance Walker (concussion) are doubtful and wide receiver Denarius Moore (shoulder) is questionable.
Chiefs re-sign Chad Hall
Because of the uncertainty of McCluster’s status, the Chiefs re-signed wide receiver/punt returner Chad Hall on Friday.
To make room for Hall on the 53-man roster, the Chiefs released defensive lineman Jerrell Powe, who was signed just last week. Powe dressed but did not appear in last week’s game at Washington.
Hall has been released and re-signed three times this season. He has played in eight games with the Chiefs recording one catch for nine yards. Hall has returned 10 punts for 107 yards, an average of 10.7, and six kickoffs for 108 yards, an average of 18.0, in 2010 with Philadelphia and 2011 at San Francisco and is a likely candidate to serve as punt returner on Sunday if McCluster is unable to play.
“One of my favorite things to do (is return punts),” Hall said. “I love being back there having the ball in my hands and trying to make someone miss and make a play.”
Hall, who was released last Saturday to make room for tight end Dominique Jones, was working out in Atlanta on Thursday when he got the call to return to Kansas City for a third time.
“This is a business … it’s a cut-throat business, and mentally you have to be tough, sharp and always stay ready,” said Hall, who played in college at Air Force. “When they called to sign me back, I was running routes and training like I was waiting for that call.”
The race is on
Denver’s loss to San Diego on Thursday night has opened some opportunities for the Chiefs, both in the AFC West race and the battle for best record and No. 1 overall seed in the AFC playoffs.
With a win on Sunday, the Chiefs, 10-3, can tie Denver, 11-3, for first in the AFC West, though the Broncos own the head-to-head tiebreaker. New England, 10-3, is also in play for the top seed in the AFC and owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Denver.
If the Chiefs win out, and Denver and New England lose another game, the Chiefs would own the No. 1 seed. Though the Chiefs and New England have the same records, the Patriots currently own the tiebreaker based on better conference record.
New England plays at noon Sunday at Miami, and a Patriots win guarantees the Chiefs a playoff spot before they even take the field at Oakland. The Chiefs also would clinch a playoff spot by beating Oakland as well.
So … do the Chiefs root for Miami to hand New England its fourth loss or for the Patriots to eliminate the Dolphins?
“We root for the Kansas City Chiefs to continue to do what they need to do, which is win games,” outside linebacker Tamba Hali said. “Anything else happens … as long as we’re in position to do what we have to get done.”
The New England-Miami result is actually a win-win situation for the Chiefs.
“We just have to root for ourselves,” defensive end Tyson Jackson said. “Beat Oakland and all those scenarios that help us out will be a bonus. Whatever team has to lose, and whatever team has to win, I hope that takes place (as long as) we beat Oakland.
“Just facing Oakland, knowing the rivalry between the two teams gets you going by itself.”