Chiefs Could Reportedly Lose Standout Defensive End for Season

Chiefs Alex Okafor Injury

Getty Drew Lock #3 of the Denver Broncos is sacked by Alex Okafor #97 of the Kansas City Chiefs in the game at Arrowhead Stadium on December 15, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri.

One of the most valuable free-agent pickups for the Kansas City Chiefs this season could be done for the year if the current worries about his chest injury prove true.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday afternoon the Chiefs are concerned defensive end Alex Okafor tore his pectoral during Sunday’s 23-3 home win over the Denver Broncos and will have him undergo an MRI later Monday to confirm the injury. While it isn’t the first time the veteran lineman has battled injuries this year, the nature of the injury doesn’t bode well for his immediate playing future with playoff-bound Kansas City.

Okafor signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Chiefs last March and has five sacks in 10 games this season, including a pair of them in Week 7’s first win over the Broncos. He had actually just tallied his fifth sack of the year, bringing down rookie quarterback Drew Lock in the first quarter not long before coming out of the game with his chest injury. While it was not clear when the injury occurred, he was quickly ruled out for the remainder of the game.

The difference-maker for Okafor will be whether his injury requires surgery, which would likely mean the end of his season. Such was the case for Houston Texans star J.J. Watt when he suffered a season-ending pectoral tear in late October with an expected recovery time of about four months, according to NFL insider Kevin Patra.

The same went for Chicago Bears linebacker Roquan Smith, who was shut down for the rest of the season after tearing his pec in the first series of Week 14’s win over the Dallas Cowboys.

The Chiefs will likely shed more light on Okafor’s injury when they return to the practice field on Wednesday afternoon, but any roster moves in the coming day might also hint at his long-term status.

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What Does Okafor’s Injury Mean for Chiefs’ Depth?

Alex Okafor has played 45.9 percent of the Chiefs’ defensive snaps this season as a rotational piece on the defensive line and has provided a quality pass-rushing presence on the edge, despite missing some time with hip and ankle injuries this season.

Should the worst be confirmed with his injury, the Chiefs will expectedly turn to a rotation of Demone Harris and Tanoah Kpassagnon on the left side. Defensive tackle Christ Jones is also an option on the outside to play opposite Frank Clark, who has been dealing with his own health issues this season.

According to The Kansas City Star’s Herbie Teope, Clark has been battling a stomach illness for weeks that grew severe enough for him to seek out a specialist, which was only the latest of health troubles for the defensive end. He has also dealt with a pinched nerve in his neck and a shoulder injury earlier in the year, but Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he is optimistic Clark is heading in the right direction in terms of returning to full strength.

“I hope it is,” Reid said Monday during his weekly teleconference. “I think they’re heading in the right direction with that. The fact that he played as well as he did yesterday amazed me.”

The Chiefs also picked up another possible option late Monday afternoon when they claimed former Cardinals and Ravens pass rusher Terrell Suggs off the waivers. Suggs was reportedly considering not reporting to any team that claimed him unless it was the Ravens, but he could be willing to climb aboard with a team guaranteed a spot in the playoffs.

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