In the span of 24 hours, both coach Andy Reid and general manager Brett Veach were quizzed about the Chiefs’ unusual running back situation, as they stood with only two traditional tailbacks — Kareem Hunt and Charcandrick West — following the 53-man roster deadline on Saturday.
Both Reid and Veach hinted that the Chiefs weren’t done yet, and on Sunday that proved to be the case when the team re-signed running back C.J. Spiller just one day after cutting him, a source told The Star.
To make room for Spiller, the Chiefs placed starting cornerback Steven Nelson on injured reserve with a designation to return. Nelson missed the Chiefs’ final preseason game on Thursday, just a few days after he had core muscle surgery. The procedure was performed by William Meyers, who specializes in core muscle injuries, on Tuesday in Philadelphia.
“He’s had the problem through training camp,” head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder said of Nelson. “He’s tried to fight through it. He rehabbed. I know Coach (Reid) had said he’s was fighting his tail off to be out there, and he was. He got through three preseason games and just felt like he couldn’t play up to speed. We decided as a group to set him down with Dr. Meyers, who thought he needed surgery. He’s already back here doing fine, and I have him now for the next 6-8 weeks.”
Burkholder said the injury, which used to be called a sports hernia, affects a player’s abs and groin. Under NFL rules, Nelson won’t be able to practice for six weeks and can’t return to the active/inactive list for eight weeks, but he will have an opportunity to potentially return this season.
Nelson’s injury explains the reason Spiller, who has had a great preseason, was cut. Players can only be placed on injured reserve with a designation to return if they make the 53-man roster at the end of the preseason, and by releasing Spiller, it created a spot for Nelson. The Chiefs still have five cornerbacks – Marcus Peters, Terrance Mitchell, Phillip Gaines, Kenneth Acker and D.J. White – on the roster for their season opener Thursday night against New England.
The re-signing of Spiller, 30, also gives them three true tailbacks, which is more in line with what Reid has needed on game days in the past. This preseason, Spiller has flashed signs of his old, lightning-fast self, as he noted multiple times that he finally feels healthy after two injury-marred years. He consistently showed the ability to catch passes out of the backfield and create in the open field, which made his cutdown-day release such a surprise.
It is possible that Spiller could carve out some sort of role this season. Rookie Kareem Hunt is the starter, and the team trusts veteran Charcandrick West, but Reid has used multiple running backs in the past depending on the situation, and Spiller’s receiving ability could be a boon.
The Chiefs also added another running back they cut Saturday — rookie Devine Redding — to the practice squad on Sunday.