KANSAS CITY, Mo. – From offense to defense through 15 games, the Chiefs epitomize the “next man up” mentality while dealing with an assortment of injuries on both side of the ball.
That approach won’t change in Week 16 against the Cleveland Browns with the Chiefs now dealing with outside linebacker Tamba Hali’s thumb injury, which required surgery earlier in the week.
With Hali missing a second straight day of practice Thursday, sixth-year pro Frank Zombo could very well be the next man in line.
“That’s been the philosophy of our team,” Zombo said. “We got a lot of Pro Bowl guy, big-name guys, go down, some guys step up and get the job done.”
The Chiefs are already without outside linebacker Justin Houston, who hasn’t played since suffering a hyperextended knee in Week 12, and appear ready to field Dee Ford and Zombo as the outside linebackers.
Ford has started in Houston’s place the past three games, but Sunday could mark Zombo’s first start of the 2015 season.
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton didn’t appear concerned.
“Frank’s a highly competitive guy, a very smart player,” Sutton said. “He’s obviously done a great job for us on the (special) teams and when he’s come in (on defense) done a really good job.
“So we’re like everybody in the NFL, we’d like to have our starting players. If we don’t, we’re fortunate to have some guys that I think can come in and play pretty well.”
While the 6-3, 254-pound Zombo has seen plenty of action on special teams in 2015 with 317 total snaps, which ranks second on the team, he also brings experience on defense.
Zombo started five games for the Chiefs in 2013 and has appeared in 71 career games with 14 total starts from six seasons split between the Green Bay Packers (2010-12) and Chiefs (2013-present). He has nine sacks during that span, including two against the Oakland Raiders in Week 13.
The Chiefs haven’t notified Zombo he will fill in for Hali, but Zombo said he’ll be ready either way because he prepares every week like he is starting.
“Even when I go into a game and I don’t if I’m going to play at all, guys are healthy, but you got to prepare,” Zombo said, “because you never know at halftime, something might switch, somebody might get hurt and you got to get in there and you’re expected to play at the same level.”
Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com and The Topeka Capital-Journal. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.