KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kareem Hunt was probably going to be Kansas City’s feature back at some point this season, but that time will come a little sooner than expected as Spencer Ware is on injured reserve with a knee injury.
Hunt, the rookie out of Toledo, says he is prepared to start and carry the load for the Chiefs when they open the season at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at New England.
“We’re going to do everything the same way,” Hunt said Tuesday at the team’s training facility. “I just got to step up and fill some big shoes.”
In the preseason, Hunt rushed 18 times for 79 yards and caught four passes for 32 yards. At Toledo, Hunt finished his career as the program’s all-time leading rusher with 4,945 yards. He also scored 44 touchdowns on the ground and added 73 catches for 555 yards and one touchdown receiving.
Ware, meanwhile, led the Chiefs in rushing last season with 921 yards and scored three touchdowns on the ground. He also had 33 catches for 447 yards and two scores as a receiver. After his injury Ware had some advice for Hunt.
“Just to stay patient,” Hunt said. “Don’t make it bigger than what it is and stay under control.”
At 5-foot-11 and 208 pounds Hunt has the size and speed combination coach Andy Reid likes in his running backs. But Hunt, the team’s third-round draft pick, also has been impressive without the ball in his hands as he has caught Reid’s attention with his pass blocking.
“You know what, I would tell you that probably the last two weeks of camp I really thought he had picked it up,” Reid said. “That last week, maybe week and a half that we were up at St. Joe, I thought he was really getting a pretty good grasp of it. And then he’s had a couple in the (preseason) games, which is going to improve that.”
Hunt’s technique on pass blocking is rather basic but effective.
“Just keep your hands inside and hit them,” Hunt said. “Drive your feet, that’s it.”
Though the Chiefs will look for Hunt to get the bulk of the carries going forward, the team has some depth at running back as Charcandrick West and C.J. Spiller each have led teams in rushing during their careers. West led the Chiefs in rushing in 2015 with 634 yards when he and Ware filled in for the injured Jamaal Charles. Spiller led the Buffalo Bills in rushing in 2012 and 2013.
Still, Ware won’t be easy to replace. Nor will it be easy to run against the Patriots, but Hunt is hoping to play a big role in Week 1.
“I’m just thinking about the game,” Hunt said. “I’ve played a lot of football and I know it’s the NFL now so it’s going to be a big test for me. I just can’t make it bigger than what it is.
“It’s still football, and I love the game so I’m just going to go out there and do what I can.”
Contact Jeff Deters @jeffdeters_tcj on Twitter.
CHIEFS AT PATRIOTS
When/Where: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.
Records: Kansas City 0-0, New England 0-0
TV/Radio: KSNT (27.1), KDVV-FM (100.3)
Line: New England by 8