KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs are preparing to play this season without their top running back.
Spencer Ware tore the posterior cruciate ligament and caused other damage to his right knee in Friday night’s preseason game in Seattle, an MRI exam revealed. The Chiefs plan to seek a second opinion but their medical staff believes he will require season-ending surgery.
Ware was hurt while fighting for extra yardage early in the loss to the Seahawks.
Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder said Sunday that players with a torn PCL can often get back on the field through rehab. But he said additional damage to the outside back corner of Ware’s knee compounds the issue, and “at this point in time our medical staff believes he needs season-ending surgery.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said third-round draft pick Kareem Hunt will be the starter for the regular-season opener Sept. 7 at New England. Charcandrick West and C.J. Spiller will likely serve as backups.
“With all these significant injuries, we’ll exhaust all our options and look at second opinions and then do what’s best for Spencer’s knee and his career,” Burkholder said. “We’re in that space right now, evaluating what’s going on. But right now our medical staff believes he needs surgery.”
The former sixth-round pick of the Seahawks arrived in Kansas City as a fullback a couple of years ago, but shed some weight and moved back to running back. And with injury problems to longtime star Jamaal Charles giving Ware some playing time, he proved to be an invaluable piece of the offense.
He ran for 921 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games last season.
“Spencer was so good at everything,” Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith said. “Physical runner, but I still felt like (he was) nimble enough to do a lot of that stuff in space and get the edge.”
Indeed, the powerful Ware was poised to split carries with the more elusive Hunt this season, and it was assumed that he would get the majority of the touches near the goal line.
Now, that job falls to the trio of running backs Kansas City expects to carry on the roster.
“He sure was good at that,” Reid acknowledged. “I think the other guys will have to step into that role. We just don’t have quite as many snaps with the other guys in that situation. I think they’re capable of doing that. But that was one of Spencer’s strengths.”
Ware’s injury clears up at least one question mark heading into next weekend, when NFL teams must trim their rosters to 53 players. The Chiefs were happy with each of their top four running backs, and Reid floated the possibility they could keep all of them at the expense of depth elsewhere.
Hunt was a lock to make the team after the Chiefs moved up in the draft to select him, while West and Spiller had been competing for third-team reps. But West dazzled in a preseason game in Cincinnati and the veteran Spiller, healthy for the first time in years, appears to have his speed back.
“We have to see how it all works out,” Reid said, when asked whether Ware’s injury makes Spiller’s job secure. “Right now, I’d say yes. Today. But we haven’t gotten that far. I don’t know who’s on and who’s off. But he’s done a nice job, I can tell you that.”
In other news, Reid announced Sunday that backup Patrick Mahomes II will start the Chiefs’ preseason finale Thursday night against Tennessee. Smith will get the night off while Tyler Bray and Joel Stave get whatever reps are left once Mahomes leaves the game.
Defensive tackle Bennie Logan missed practice with a swollen knee, cornerback Steven Nelson had a groin strain and safety Ron Parker was dealing with a sprained ankle on Sunday. All of them are expected to start — or rotate in sub packages — when the regular season begins.
Cairo Santos did some kicking in practice as he recovers from a groin injury, but Sam Ficken still got most of the work. Ficken has filled in through the first three preseason games.