All signs point toward the Chiefs activating running back Priest Holmes for Sunday’s game at Oakland, but the club has until 3 p.m. today to make a roster move.
Holmes, who has been out for two years because of head/neck injuries, took a full load at practice on Friday for the third straight day.
“In my opinion, he’s about as good as he’s going to get,” said Chiefs coach Herm Edwards. “The only thing you don’t know is when he gets tackled and hits the ground, and can he hold on to the football? He hasn’t had any contact … he’s been knocked around in practice, but he hasn’t had any contact. He’s done everything you can do except play.”
So why not go ahead and have him fill the spot on the roster vacated by the trade of running back Michael Bennett?
“I like sleeping on thoughts like this,” Edwards said before the club departed for Oakland. “I’ve got another day. I think better when I’m on the West Coast … the ocean, the breeze, we’ll figure it out.”
Holmes has not played in a game since suffering head and neck injuries from a hit nearly two years ago — on Oct. 30, 2005. His return to the Chiefs’ lineup will be regarded as one of the most remarkable comebacks in the history of the NFL, if not major-league sports.
Holmes, 34, spent the last nine weeks of the 2005 season on injured reserve and all of 2006 on the club’s physically unable to perform list.
He surprised the club this summer by reporting to training camp in hopes of reviving his career and spent the first six weeks of the season on the reserve, non-football injury list.
Holmes was unavailable for comment on Friday. After his first practice Wednesday, Holmes, the club’s all-time leader in total touchdowns with 83 and rushing touchdowns with 76, said he was looking forward to reaching the end zone again.
“The most exciting thing will be my first touchdown,” said Holmes, whose NFL record of 27 touchdowns in 2003 has since been broken. “That’s what I’m excited about. Not so much the first run, because I think that the first run could come on a play where there is a nine-man blitz and they get me for a loss of 2.
“That possibly could happen, or it could be a 50-yard run. Any of those things can happen, but what is going to be exciting is my first touchdown.”
Not many players in recent pro football history have returned to the game after missing more than one season because of injury. After retiring following the 2000 season, cornerback Deion Sanders returned after a three-year absence at age 37 with the Baltimore Ravens in 2004.
And quarterback Steve DeBerg had been out of the game for four years when he signed as a backup quarterback at age 44 with the Atlanta Falcons in 1998.
Chiefs offensive tackle Kyle Turley can relate to Holmes’ comeback. Turley sat out the 2004 and 2005 seasons because of a back injury before signing with the Chiefs in 2006.
“The first game is going to be like no other game he’s played before, for sure,” Turley said. “Your first time back on the football field is quite an experience being that you’ve been out for so long, and probably, to most people, shouldn’t be playing anymore.
“Anything to do with the spine is a serious, serious injury that most people will count you out. To have made comeback like he is, and I’ve been able to do … so the feelings of being back in the NFL, putting that uniform on Sunday, going through the pregame rituals you used to do … is even greater.”
Chiefs quarterback Damon Huard, who has been with the team since 2004, is looking forward to playing with Holmes for the first time.
“I’ve been very impressed with him,” Huard said.
“I know what Priest can do. His work ethic has been awesome. He’s come out to practice with a lot of energy and great attitude, and kind of asking me, ‘What did you think of this one?’ and ‘I’ll be here on this.’ He has played so much football and has such a great mind and feel for how things are going to open up. He should add a nice dimension to our offense.”
Turley doesn’t think Holmes will have any fear of further injury.
“People who make comebacks like that don’t play with fear,” he said. “They never have. You’re injured, and whatever time it takes to get back is what time it’s going to take, and when you come back, you don’t play with any hesitation.
“After my first game back in the NFL, when I walked into an NFL stadium, and all those people, and the whole atmosphere after that game … if I would have gotten hurt in that game and couldn’t play football anymore, that one game would have made it all worth it. There would have been no regret.”