KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs are in danger of starting the 2016 regular season without an important piece on defense.
Outside linebacker Justin Houston underwent a procedure on Feb. 15 to address the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee after a knee scope revealed a deeper issue.
“When Dr. (James) Andrews took a look inside his knee, he determined his ACL was intact, it just wasn’t functioning,” Chiefs head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder said Tuesday morning in a conference call. “So, he didn’t do anything at that moment, brought him out of surgery, we all got on the phone and discussed everything and decided to have his ACL fixed.”
Burkholder emphasized Houston’s ACL wasn’t torn.
“Right now he’s in the middle of the process of doing rehabilitation for an ACL injury,” Burkholder said. “It was a little bit tricky because his ACL wasn’t torn, but it wasn’t functioning the way it should, so Dr. Andrews fixed that.”
The recovery timeline for an ACL procedure is typically 6-12 months, which places doubt on Houston’s availability for the start of training camp, much less the 2016 season.
But coach Andy Reid, who addressed reporters on the conference call after Burkholder, didn’t rule out Houston.
“We’re hoping (not), just because of his work ethic and he’s been a fast healer in the past,” Reid said. “We’re hoping that’s not the case, that he’ll be able to play the season just depending on when and where that it is. I mean, it’s too early to be able to tell.”
Houston originally suffered a hyperextended knee in Week 12 against the Buffalo Bill and missed five straight games to close the regular season.
He returned to action in the postseason, but didn’t see a full complement of snaps. Houston logged 44 defensive snaps (69 percent) in the opening wild-card round against the Houston Texans, and then just eight snaps (14 percent) in the Divisional Round against the New England Patriots.
With Houston shelved, the Chiefs have three returning outside linebackers from the 2015 season: Tamba Hali, Dee Ford and Frank Zombo.
Ford, in particular, started in place of Houston from Weeks 13-17 last year.
The Chiefs also have outside linebackers Cameron Gordon and Jonathan Massaquoi on the offseason roster, and a pair of developmental players to consider with Efe Obada and Tautvydas Kieras.