Chiefs certainly hurting on defense
By ADAM TEICHER
The Kansas City Star
Safety Jarrad Page (44) may not be able to help the Chiefs much on Sunday because of an injury.
“It’s ironic that I might be starting for the first time,” Johnston said Friday as the Chiefs packed to catch their flight to the West Coast. “I had no clue about that when I bought the tickets. I bought them just because I was going home for the first time.”
The Chiefs on Friday were planning that Johnston could be just one of four defensive players making their first starts of the season because of injuries. Others on that list are cornerback David Macklin, who arrived only this week, linebacker Rocky Boiman, who signed only last month, and safety Jon McGraw.
The Chiefs issued an extensive injury report that listed defensive end Turk McBride and linebacker Derrick Johnson as out for Sunday’s game. Cornerback Brandon Flowers and safety Jarrad Page were questionable.
Only Page practiced Friday. But the Chiefs also signed veteran safety Oliver Celestin and planned to dress him on Sunday, a sign the Chiefs aren’t confident about Page’s availability.
Third cornerback Patrick Surtain was also listed as out, while reserve safety DaJuan Morgan was listed as questionable.
The Chiefs haven’t given up on Flowers or Page, but were planning to play without them.
They were scrambling to prepare a lot of new players this week — and the effort intensified Friday.
“It gives everybody a lot more to think about,” said McGraw, who at least has played some in all eight games. “Everybody is cramming to learn as much as possible, but there’s only so much you can cover in a day or a few days. You can’t teach a whole scheme. You try to cover the basics.
“Sometimes it can be a good thing. I’ve been in situations like this in the past where everybody just goes out and plays football and stops worrying about things they can’t control. Sometimes, you play better. That’s what I’m expecting.”
The rash of defensive injuries comes at a particularly inopportune time for the Chiefs. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers is the NFL’s highest-rated quarterback and the Chargers are third in the league in scoring.
The Chiefs started the week knowing they would probably have to play in San Diego without Johnson, who has a sore hamstring, and Surtain, who has an injured quad muscle. Boiman, who started against Tennessee last month when the Chiefs opened with four linebackers, will take Johnson’s place.
Boiman played for defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham when both were with the Titans.
The Chiefs this week signed Macklin and another veteran cornerback, Ricardo Colclough, to fill in for Surtain.
McBride has a sore shoulder, and though he practiced Wednesday, it was evident the injury was bothering him.
Flowers missed the second half of last week’s game against Tampa Bay because of a sore hamstring. He practiced Wednesday, and the Chiefs were so confident a day later he would be ready Sunday that they took him off the injury list.
But he was listed again on Friday, and the Chiefs appeared pessimistic about his availability for Sunday.
That would leave rookies Brandon Carr and Maurice Leggett, Macklin and Colclough as the cornerbacks in San Diego. Macklin, by virtue of his 116 games of NFL experience, seemed most likely to start in Flowers’ place.
“We’ll see what happens,” Macklin said. “Nobody’s told me I’ll be starting, but obviously that could happen. I’m just looking to make an impact whatever my role is.”
If Macklin starts, it would create the unusual scenario in which Carr, a rookie who became a starter early in the season, would serve as a tutor for Macklin, who has played eight NFL seasons.
“I’ve been in this system longer than him,” Carr said. “I’ve seen a lot of things while I’ve been here. It’s time for me to grow up and take on more responsibility. If I can help him, I’m going to try to do it.”