Tamba Hali’s objective is simple.
“I’m here to help the team win, however I can,” Hali said. “Whatever I can do.”
For the first time this season, in Sunday’s 28-17 Cowboys’ victory over the Chiefs, Hali saw action. After spending the first two months on the physically unable to perform list with chronic knee problems, Hali started practicing with the team on Thursday and was activated on Saturday.
He didn’t start Sunday but, when he wasn’t included on the team’s inactive list, the Chiefs made it clear this would be his first game. Hali worked into the outside linebacker rotation with Justin Houston and Frank Zombo. For the game, Hali was credited with one tackle.
The Chiefs led briefly in the game, 17-14 in the third quarter. Hali was hoping to be part of a victory, preferably one where the Chiefs led most of the way, which would have provided more pass-rushing opportunities.
“I’ve been watching our games and we usually have taken a lead,” Hali said. “I wanted that to happen so I could get a chance to pressure the quarterback.”
Hali has made a career of that. In his 12th NFL season, Hali, 34, ranks second on the franchise list of career sacks with 89 1/2 .
Facing mobile quarterback Dak Prescott, opportunities for sacks were reduced. The Chiefs got one, by Zombo.
Hali said he felt strong. Certainly his legs are fresh. But, as Andy Reid put it last week in describing Hali’s practice performance, there is some rust to knock off.
“My get-off is what I was most concerned about,” Hali said. “But as far as redirecting and getting to the ball I was fine.”
The Chiefs are in need of able bodies on defense. Linebacker Dee Ford missed starting for the third time this season with a back injury. Houston has been a constant on the injury report with a knee problem. Rookie Tanoh Kpassagnon also has taken snaps at outside linebcker.
Hali’s return was seen as a boost not only to the defense but the entire team. Reid liked what he saw.
“I thought he did some good things early,” Reid said. “There’s no way at this time of year of getting good, accurate reps other than playing, so he’s going to have to do that in games and we’ll see going forward how it works for him.”
Hali wasn’t sure of his return schedule. The Chiefs’ message to him was to keep working out at the team’s facility and that he would be needed for season’s stretch run.
That time has arrived, and now Hali hopes he can help redirect a team that started 5-0 but now stands at 6-3.
“I just know I can play,” Hali said. “I can’t explain play, but I can get out there and play.”