Emotional Charles returns as Chiefs run game thrives

Posted Aug 10, 2012

Running backs help Chiefs offense soar in 27-17 victory over Arizona

Arrowhead Stadium – The first hit. The first carry. The first everything.

Jamaal Charles had to hit the reset button in Friday night’s preseason opener.

He thought about what this night would be like for nearly a year as he rehabilitated the left knee that tore Week Two in Detroit last season. How sweet it would be to finally return to the football field rarely left his mind. It all became a reality. Finally.

But, as Charles found out Friday night, you’re never really back until you’re back.

“It’s been a really hard year for me,” Charles said. “I almost teared up after I got that first carry. It’s just been an emotional time. To come back to this stadium and to feel all the love and passion – I just feel that God gave me a second chance and I’m just so happy to step on the field again.”

Charles’ first carry came on the fifth play from scrimmage. It reads as an anonymous five-yard carry in the final stats, but it meant so much more to Charles and the 64,212 Chiefs fans that roared after that first rushing attempt.

His performance wasn’t a head-turner either. Just 12 rushing yards on three carries and an 11-yard reception. But Charles’ return didn’t have to be an eye-popper. Friday night’s game wasn’t about breaking big runs or scoring touchdowns, it was about clearing that first mental hurdle of getting back on the field.

Charles got hit for the first time and he popped back up. The ball was in his hands again three snaps later.

Jamaal Charles truly returned to football on Friday night. Now he can move on to all of the other things.

“Everybody knows I’m back now, so it’s just up to me to do me,” Charles said. “I need to take care of my body and continue to get the right treatment and I’ll be good to go for the rest of the year.”

Kansas City’s run game thrived even without the chunk yardage a healthy Charles normally provides. Chiefs runners reached the 100-yard rushing mark by the close of the first half.

Peyton Hillis looked like the player who turned in a career-year working with Chiefs offensive coordinator Brian Daboll two seasons ago. He rumbled for 41 yards on four carries as the thunder to Charles’ lightning and capped off a methodical 12-play, 72-yard opening drive with an 11-yard touchdown reception.

“That’s what I was hoping for when we signed him because he has shown that he has the ability to be a good runner, he can catch out of the backfield and he can block as well,” head coach Romeo Crennel said. “I thought tonight he showed us a little bit of that – his ability to get through the line, run through tackles, has great vision on making his cuts. He’s a good addition to the team.”

Also, a pair of young runners complimented Charles and Hillis nicely to show that the backfield might have some depth building behind its marquee ball carriers.

Shaun Draughn – a standout over the first two weeks of training camp – received opportunities to work with the first-team offense as the Chiefs try to learn more about how he might be able to help the team. Draughn was a practice squad addition last season after being released by Washington and received a Week 17 promotion to the active roster.

Sixth-round draft pick Cyrus Gray added a second-half score and finished his Chiefs debut as Kansas City’s leading rusher with 65 yards on 15 attempts.

Draughn notched a rushing score as well. Both he and Gray factored heavily into Kansas City’s special teams cover units as well.

And let’s not leave out the contributions of undrafted rookie Nate Eachus who started at fullback despite having never played the position until last week.

“I just told those young guys that every time your name is called, you have to step up,” Charles said. “You’re not just playing for yourself or for your family, or even for the Chiefs. In these preseason games you’re playing for all of the other teams in the NFL too.”

As a position group, the running backs have been a bright spot of training camp practices in St. Joseph, Mo. Friday night’s rushing performance was an extension of what’s been happening on the practice field.

It was refreshing to see.