No matter how awkward or distressing Monday night might be, console yourself with the fact that history will certify Jamaal Charles a Chief, and that in his heart that’s who he is, too.
Not just because of memories of his 7,260 rushing yards on an NFL-record-holding 5.4 yards a carry and 2,457 more receiving yards and 63 touchdowns in a Kansas City uniform … and the pure heart and soul and battered body with which he played for nine seasons here.
Because about as soon as he’s eligible, count on his identity in Kansas City to be revived with an induction into the Chiefs’ Hall of Fame and emblazoned in the Ring of Honor at Arrowhead Stadium.
Any logic tells you that, and former general manager John Dorsey made it clear to Charles even as he told him the Chiefs were releasing him in February.
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You’ll “always be a Chief,” Charles on Wednesday recalled Dorsey saying, saying that Dorsey alluded not just to the inevitable Chiefs’ Hall of Fame honor but even to the possibility of returning here at the end of his career to retire in a Chiefs uniform.
If only there weren’t this pesky time in between with Charles, 30, who doesn’t quite know what to expect from fans when he returns to Arrowhead Stadium on Monday night clad in a despised Denver Broncos uniform — and, oof, liking it.
While he called it “a great feeling to come back home,” he laughed and added, “It’s definitely going to be different.”
“A lot of people think I’m a traitor just because I play with the Broncos,” Charles said during a teleconference on Wednesday. “But I was just trying to get … a job at the end of the day, and I’m happy that the Broncos kept that dream alive for me.”
Tough to argue against that, especially after the Chiefs had no further current use for him when they deemed his back-to-back injury-ruined seasons and a $7 million salary more full of risk than reward.
As part of a committee of running backs with the Broncos, Charles has rushed for 196 yards and a touchdown on 42 carries and insists his knees are giving him no trouble.
Much as he’d like to play more, so far so good.
So you might disregard or forgive him for being gung-ho about his new employer and saying stuff right after he signed with Denver about how he’d always wanted to play for the Broncos because John Elway was one of his favorite players, and that he loved the idea of getting to play the Chiefs twice a year.
Say it ain’t so, Jamaal.
That miffed some Chiefs fans.
But if you know Charles, or even if you don’t, you might consider that it was more hurtful pride speaking than some kind of newfound arrogance in a man who is remarkably sincere and humble.
So even as he acknowledged on Wednesday how strange it will be to play at Arrowhead for the visiting team, Charles also expressed peace about what has come to pass.
While declining to comment on if he believed his release had been handled properly, he called the Chiefs “a great organization that I grew up with,” and added, “Everything happens for a reason … I’m happy where I’m at, and they made the right decision, I guess.”
Asked to elaborate on his point about the decision, Charles said, “Because … we can’t go back in the past and change it. They moved on from me, and I’m here with the Broncos.”
Although he didn’t say it directly, Charles might well have also been referring to the success of his replacement: Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt, at this stage of the season a leading contender for NFL rookie of the year.
“His game is pretty good,” Charles said.
Citing Kansas City predecessors of his own like Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson, Charles said he was pleased to see a tradition being extended and added, “I’m happy for the guy. I (hope) the guy will break all my records. Records are meant to be broken. I wish him the best, him and his team.”
Speaking of “his team,” Charles says he’s still in touch with plenty of old teammates, including Eric Berry, Justin Houston and Derrick Johnson, as well as guys he took under his wing, like Charcandrick West and Ron Parker.
The more he spoke, the more players he mentioned — Dustin Colquitt, Alex Smith — as people he cares about.
When he thought about what he misses about Kansas City, he thought not about things but relationships — including with fans who supported him on the field and in his charitable work and even by buying his jersey.
For that matter, he says, his children are always asking, “Can I go back and see my friends?”
In a way, that’s what he’ll be feeling on Monday himself in a stadium where he was part of a powerful tradition in a city where his children were born.
“My heart is always going to be with the Chiefs,” he said, “after I retire.”
In the meantime, we all have to endure this disturbance in the force.
Don’t blame the Chiefs for a business decision, but don’t blame Charles for one, either — even if makes for a little dilemma for fans who want to celebrate those who gave so much to and for their team.
“I’m just going up in there to play football like I’ve been doing my whole life; I mean, I gave it my all when I was a Chief,” he said, later adding, “Where I’m at right now, in the next chapter of my life, I’ve just got to be happy with and take advantage of it and show people I can still play football.”