DECEMBER 9: The Chiefs have officially activated Bolton from injured reserve. Per ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler, the linebacker is expected to play on Sunday with a small cast that’s intended to protect his wrist.
DECEMBER 8: After seeing its defense sustain multiple injuries in a loss to the Packers, the Chiefs will have their top linebacker available once again. Weeks after wrist surgery, Nick Bolton will come off IR.
The Chiefs are officially activating the third-year defender ahead of their Week 14 game against the Bills, KPRC2’s Aaron Wilson tweets. This will only be Kansas City’s second IR activation this season; six more such moves remain available to the defending champions.
Kansas City has lost three games without Bolton, who has missed time due to multiple injuries this season. The Chiefs have been without the prolific tackler for the past five games. The team has lost three of those — to the Broncos, Eagles and Packers — to drop to 8-4. Having Bolton active will certainly help the AFC West leaders, who now trail the Dolphins and Ravens in the race for AFC home-field advantage.
While overshadowed by the Chiefs’ two future Hall of Famers on offense and Chris Jones on defense, Bolton has become one of the league’s top young linebackers. The former second-round pick reeled off a 180-tackle season (along with two interceptions and two sacks) in 2022 and scored a touchdown in Super Bowl LVII, coming a split-second away from a second TD in that game. Bolton, however, has only played in four games this season. He missed three earlier this year due to an ankle injury.
This activation will be a timely one for Kansas City, which ruled out Drue Tranquill for Sunday’s game. Tranquill suffered a concussion against Green Bay. Bolton and Willie Gay, however, have operated as the Chiefs’ top linebackers for the past three years. The latter is in a contract year. With Gay’s Missouri future uncertain, Bolton profiles as an extension candidate, joining fellow 2021 second-round pick Creed Humphrey in that regard. Both players will be eligible to discuss new deals in January.
The Mizzou alum will be a pivotal component to the Chiefs’ latest effort to secure a first-round bye. The Chiefs have earned a bye in four of their five playoff runs with Patrick Mahomes at the helm. They have been able to play a record-setting five straight home AFC championship games, two of those due to that year’s No. 1 seed (the Ravens in 2019, Titans in 2021) losing in Round 2. The Chiefs have not flashed top form in a few weeks, but the Super Bowl contenders do not play a team with a winning record the rest of the way.