When Chiefs right guard Parker Ehinger was told earlier this week he’d likely start Sunday’s regular-season finale at Denver, his reaction was enthusiastic to say the least.
“Well, there were a few words you probably can’t say,” Ehinger said with a hearty laugh. “It was one of those things you’re not expecting, but you know, you thought it might be in the cards.”
Ehinger, a starter for four games last year before a injury ended his rookie campaign, figured it might be coming. Chiefs coach Andy Reid has a history of resting starters entering meaningless regular-season finales — as the Denver game will be because the Chiefs are locked into the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoffs — and starting right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has been been banged up.
“Obviously, you know people rest players before the playoffs, so I thought about it a little bit, but it was never one of those things that was on the top of my mind,” Ehinger said. “But to get that news, it was just like ‘OK, here we go. let’s strap ’em up.’ So I’m ready to go.”
Barring any unforeseen developments, Ehinger is in line to replace Duvernay-Tardif at right guard, a position he hasn’t appeared at in a professional game. But Ehinger did start a full college season there at Cincinnati and has been practicing there as a backup this season, in addition to getting some work at left guard and at both tackle spots.
Even offensive coordinator Matt Nagy is looking forward to seeing Ehinger start, barring any setbacks.
“I hope (he plays),” Nagy said. “It’s a good opportunity, a good time to do it.”
Ehinger, a fourth-round pick from Cincinnati a year ago, earned the starting gig at left guard a year ago because of his size, (6 feet 6, 320 pounds), field awareness and technique. A torn ACL against Indianapolis in late October curtailed a solid debut campaign.
“Man, I’ve been ready — I’ve been ready since I was activated Week (5),” Ehinger said. “It’s been a waiting game for me at this point. I’ll take this over anything. Getting a chance to be able to play this year, I’m very grateful for it. I’ll take it and run with it.”
One of the reasons Ehinger hasn’t played yet was the need to build up his lower body. After the injury, Ehinger was able to train his left knee only with heavier weights.
“People do take it for granted,” Ehinger said. “Obviously going through this, I took it for granted until something like this happens to me. Obviously, it’s something hard to come back from. I’ve been thankful for the great training staff and rehab staff here, getting me back. I was actually able to come back in just under a year and be activated and ready to play until I was needed. I was very thankful for the people in the building that helped me out every step of the way since I got hurt in Indianapolis.”
Ehinger says he’s been squatting since July, though he will certainly put an emphasis on training his legs during the offseason.
“The right side, you’ve got to wait until you get to a certain point to catch up,” Ehinger said. “I’m at a good point right now. My legs are strong, I feel good.”