There was hope that injured Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles would return for the playoffs, but that won’t be the case. The Chiefs designated linebacker Justin March-Lillard to return from injured reserve Wednesday, thereby ending Charles’ season, reports Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).
Charles landed on IR on Nov. 1 because he needed surgery on his right knee, in which he tore his ACL last season. He also underwent a procedure on his left knee, which seemingly increased the odds of a comeback this year. Instead, though, his 2016 will end with just 12 carries and 40 yards in three appearances. Charles only participated in five games last season, in which the four-time Pro Bowler rushed 71 times for 364 yards and four touchdowns.
Just as they did last year, the 10-4 Chiefs are on track to make the playoffs this season with limited contributions from Charles. Backup Spencer Ware has stepped up in Charles’ absence and totaled 1,287 yards (860 rushing, 427 receiving) and five touchdowns. Given Ware’s emergence, not to mention Charles’ recent injury issues and age (he’ll turn 30 on Dec. 27), it’s possible Charles has put on a Chiefs uniform for the last time. By releasing the nine-year veteran in the offseason, Kansas City would save $7MM in 2017 without incurring any dead money.
March-Lillard, meanwhile, is now set to come back after heading to IR in mid-October. Prior to going down, the 2015 undrafted free agent from Akron played in 49.9 percent of the Chiefs’ defensive snaps and accrued 22 tackles.
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