Chiefs Activate Veteran Lineman, Place Versatile RB on Injured Reserve

Getty Kansas City Chiefs, running back Jerick McKinnon.

The Kansas City Chiefs made several roster moves coming out of the bye week. They activated veteran offensive lineman Kyle Long from the Physically Unable to Perform list, and placed running back Jerick McKinnon and defensive tackle Khalen Saunders on injured reserve, per the NFL’s official transaction report.

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How Maneuvers Impact Chiefs

Kansas City had designated Long to return from the PUP back on November 10, which opened the practice window for his return. He will now be active for the first time this season in Week 13.

Back in June, Long suffered a lower-leg injury, with the belief that he could be ready by Week 1 of the 2021 season, according to NFL Media’s Tom Pelissero. That recovery timetable was believed to be “wishful thinking,” however, according to Sam McDowell of the Kansas City Star, which turned out to be the case, as Long hasn’t been healthy enough to return to action until now.

McKinnon’s season-ending injury likely stemmed from the hamstring injury he suffered in Kansas City’s Week 11 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

During his first season in Kansas City, McKinnon, 29, played in 11 games, and had seven rushes for 38 yards, along with 10 receptions on 17 targets for 81 yards, per Pro Football Reference. His contributions — although rather minimal — were helpful to a Chiefs offense that is just beginning to find its footing three months into the season.

Saunders — a 2019 third-round pick — has been a rotational piece of the defense, playing 31% of the team’s defensive snaps in seven games played this season, per Pro Football Reference.

Having Long in the lineup will be added reinforcements to an interior offensive line that is one of the best in the NFL this season. McKinnon and Saunders’ solid depth presence will be missed.

Chiefs Have Meaningful Stretch Coming

The defending AFC champions are set to play their first game out of their bye against the Denver Broncos, who kept their playoff hopes alive with a win over the divisional-rival Los Angeles Chargers in Week 12.

The game was originally supposed to happen during the day, however, the NFL decided to flex it to Sunday Night Football. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid spoke about how having a Sunday night game changes a team’s preparation.

“There’s not really anything you have to change that’s immediate in the process,” Reid explained. “Normally you try to get a jump later in the week on the following team because you’re not going to have any time. It’s a late night and you have a relatively early morning without any sleep, so you try to get a jump on the team coming up. At least some coaches do that, but other than that everything is the same.”

With four divisional games left to play this season, the Chiefs need to come out of their bye with a sense of urgency. Despite being in first place in the AFC West with a chance to claim the No. 1 seed in the AFC, losing to the Broncos in Week 13 could cause the Chiefs to drop to third place in the division, depending on how the Chargers’ game against the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 13 turns out.

Kansas City needs to hit the ground running out of the bye week.


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