Moeaki, Berry and Charles turn injury rehab into competition

Posted Jan 4, 2012

Injured Chiefs find ways to push one another in road to making a full recovery

Knee injuries hit Tony Moeaki, Eric Berry and Jamaal Charles one right after the other. Three consecutive games produced three season-ending left knee injuries.

Moeaki went down with a torn left ACL on the first play of the second quarter in Kansas City’s preseason finale at Green Bay. He’d just caught a 14-yard pass from Matt Cassel before (former) Packers linebacker Ricky Elmore pushed him out of bounds.

Berry was lost for the year on Kansas City’s first defensive series of the season. Bills wide receiver Stevie Johnson hit Berry with a vicious downfield chop block shortly after the Pro Bowl safety’s knee buckled in run support. Berry’s season was over after just four defensive snaps.

Charles capped off the trifecta in the first quarter of a Week Two loss at Detroit when he was pushed out of bounds by Lions cornerback Chris Houston following a three-yard gain.

Three key offensive players lost to left knee injuries in three consecutive games. Moeaki, Berry and Charles were the poster boys for the Chiefs nightmarish start to the 2011 season.

Now, in 2012, the three are tackling rehabilitation together, even competing with one another during weight training sessions.

“I was the first one to do it, so they would ask questions at first about what to expect,” Moeaki said.

“We’re one and two weeks apart, but as far as the big picture we’re on the same schedule now. When we’re doing exercising drills, I’ll try to sneak in an extra 10 pounds on those guys. It’s a little thing, but we compete with everything.”

Moeaki’s plan is to participate in football related activities during OTAs this spring and he’s confident that he’ll make a full recovery before the start of the 2012 training camp.

Offseason practice sessions will take place roughly nine months after the injury occurred.

“As far as I know, I should be back by OTAs,” Moeaki said.

Head coach Romeo Crennel was a bit more cautious with expectations for a spring return. Recovery from ACL surgery generally takes between 6-9 months, but each individual situation is unique.   

“They are all making good progress,” Crennel said. “They are all rehabbing and I’ve been told that they’re on schedule as far as their rehab goes. Now, whether that’s football-ready or not, I can’t say that right now.”

Changes to the structure of the NFL’s offseason program could affect how teams handle players returning from injury as well.

In addition to running an offseason strength and conditioning program that began in March and lasted until June, teams were previously allowed to hold 14 OTA practices and a three-day minicamp.

Under rules of the new CBA, offseason practice time will decrease. Offseason programs are now limited to nine weeks and encompass three phases.

Phase One: Two weeks; limited to strength and conditioning activities (“dead ball”); only strength and conditioning coaches are allowed on the field.

Phase Two: Three weeks; individual and “perfect play” drills allowed (no offense vs. defense); all coaches allowed on the field

Phase Three: Four weeks; 10 OTAs; maximum of three OTA’s for the first two weeks; maximum of four OTA’s for the third or fourth week, with the other week being the minicamp.

The Chiefs haven’t set dates for their 2012 offseason program, but Crennel said in his end of season press conference that players are expected back at the team facility at some point in April.

Once a head coach is hired on a permanent basis, those plans will come into focus.

In the meantime, the three Chiefs nursing left knee injuries will continue to move forward together with their rehabilitation program.

“Everything is on track,” Moeaki said. “You know, torn ACL’s just take a little while to rehab and it’s nice to have Jamaal and Eric to kind of do this together. I know we’ll all be working hard this offseason to get back and help the team next year.”

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