KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) Chiefs coach Andy Reid floated the idea not long ago that he might keep his top four running backs when trimming the roster to 53 players next weekend.
That may not be such a difficult decision now.
The Chiefs could be without top running back Spencer Ware for the first portion of the season after he hurt his right knee in Friday night’s preseason game in Seattle. The initial diagnosis was a sprain but Ware was due for an MRI exam Saturday amid reports he injured one of his ligaments.
If that’s the case, he could miss anywhere from several weeks to the entire season.
”He gets his MRI today so I think we just have to see on it,” Reid said Saturday. ”It’s not one of those things that’s clear-cut, end-of-the-season or I’d tell you. That’s not what it is.”
Ware was hurt early in the Chiefs’ third preseason game, when he tried to fight for a few extra yards on a carry deep in Seattle territory. He immediately grabbed at his right knee while trainers ran onto the field, and he wound up riding a cart to the locker room.
Reid said that Ware was sore Saturday but ”you have to go through the whole process here.”
Regardless, he acknowledged that third-round draft pick Kareem Hunt would be first in line to soak up carries. Hunt was poised to begin the season alongside Ware in a one-two punch while Charcandrick West and C.J. Spiller fought for playing time – and perhaps a roster spot – as the third-string running back.
Now it appears West and Spiller will both make the team when rosters are reduced Sept. 2.
”We’ve got Kareem, we’ve got Charcandrick and C.J., so I mean, we’ve always rotated guys and it will be no different in this case,” Reid said. ”But (Hunt) would be the next man up, yes.”
The former Toledo standout dazzled the Chiefs the moment he set foot in their practice facility. He was known for his versatility, offering both power and elusiveness as a runner, but has showcased excellent hands and a willingness to block that has already made him a favorite of quarterback Alex Smith.
”Definitely for a young guy, to see him go in and not really blink with that stuff, I sometimes think that’s the hardest thing is protection,” Smith said. ”He got a taste of everything the other night, which was good. It was good experience for him.”
Hunt carried nine times for 39 yards against the Seahawks, while Spiller carried three times for 10 yards. West went backward a yard on his three carries, though he did run for 113 yards on seven attempts a week earlier against the Cincinnati Bengals’ backups and third-string reserves.
”They all have their strengths for sure, things you can utilize,” Reid said. ”They’re all hard workers and smart kids, so that helps too.”
West is the only known commodity, though. He proved to be a solid fill-in when Jamaal Charles got hurt a couple of years ago, parlaying a breakout season into a two-year contract extension.
Hunt is relatively unknown because he’s a rookie, while Spiller is a question mark because of injuries that have threatened to derails his once-promising career.
The former first-round draft pick ran for 1,244 yards with Buffalo in 2012, but that was the last time he played 16 games in a season. As injuries mounted, the Bills eventually walked away, and Spiller had a forgettable year in New Orleans before bouncing through the Jets and Saints organizations.
But Spiller insists he is finally healthy, and the Chiefs have been pleasantly surprised by what he’s done in training camp. Most of the speed that once made him so dangerous is back, and his experience is a bonus for a young running back corps that now has a rookie at the top of the list.
”Honestly, I’m very comfortable with every aspect of our offense,” Spiller said. ”I feel that I understand our playbook and that allows me to play fast. My reads of the defense are getting quicker, too.
”Overall, I’m happy with my progression and understanding of our offensive scheme.”
That’s good news for the Chiefs, especially after the bad news they received Friday night.
Notes: Reid said he’s leaning toward sitting his starters for Thursday’s preseason finale against Tennessee, though he has yet to make a final decision. … Reid lamented penalties and dropped passes that derailed the Chiefs offense on Friday night. Kansas City was flagged 14 times for 126 yards.
For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL