One of the biggest Chiefs fans this season has been living in Dallas, watching games on television as his favorite team raced to the best record in the AFC with the league’s top offense.
He has since relocated to Kansas City and soon can contribute to their success.
“I didn’t think I’d be back this year,” running back Charcandrick West said. “This is a blessing.”
West was back in the Chiefs’ locker room Wednesday with a shorter haircut and a No. 30 jersey waiting in his cubical instead of his old No. 35.
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The smile and approach were unmistakable. The Chiefs don’t have a more upbeat or appreciative player on the roster than West.
“This is my family,” West said. “It’s always going to be my family.”
West is here because Kareem Hunt isn’t. The team’s rushing leader was dismissed last Friday after a video revealed that day showed him shoving and kicking a woman in Cleveland in February. Hunt cleared waivers on Monday and went unclaimed by other NFL teams.
The Chiefs brought in running backs C.J. Anderson and West for visits on Monday and then signed West, who spent his first four NFL seasons with the Chiefs before getting cut in the preseason.
The team had added Damien Williams and undrafted rookie Darrel Williams to go along with Hunt and Spencer Ware, who this year was returning from a knee injury. West was the odd man out, and the Chiefs said goodbye to a fan favorite who had originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of Abeline Christian, then a Division II program.
That was a tough time for West, who was the team’s leading rusher in 2015 and has 999 career rushing yards with 12 total touchdowns. He also logged nearly 200 plays on special teams.
But he remained in touch with friends on the team, guys like tight end Travis Kelce, and did his best to stay in shape after a short stint with the New York Jets didn’t work out.
West probably won’t suit up for Sunday’s game against the Baltimore Ravens at Arrowhead Stadium, but he’s working his way back.
“He’s kept himself in good shape, but he hasn’t been in a game for a while,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “He understands, has been around long enough to go about it.”
Reid calls West “an energy guy,” and knows he’ll do whatever is asked.
“Anything they need,” West said. “If it’s smile, if it’s a touchdown, a first down, a kickoff return, I’m just happy to be here.”
West seemed part of the Chiefs’ future in March, 2016, when he and Ware signed contract extensions on the same day.
The duo had shared the position after starter Jamaal Charles went down with an ACL injury in the fifth week of the 2015 season, and West got his first NFL start the next week. The Chiefs lost that game, but they wouldn’t lose again in the regular season.
With West and Ware carrying the load, the Chiefs roared to 10 straight victories to finish the 2015 regular season and went on to win their only playoff game in the Reid era, at Houston.
West’s most productive outing came in the game that started the winning streak, when he rushed for 110 yards in a victory over Pittsburgh. It remains his career best. Two weeks later, in a victory at Denver, he was dynamic with 69 rushing yards and 92 yards receiving, including an 80-yard touchdown.
Every week, West marvels as he watches these Chiefs make similar plays. He saw the foundation of this offense develop during training camp but admitted it’s become even better than he imagined.
“We always knew it was going to be good,” West said. “But (making) history like this, I can honestly say I didn’t see it.”
Now he’ll be part of it, in practice and when he suits up.
“I told them, “’We’re 10-2. Thank you for all the all work, but I’m back now,’” West said, smiling.