KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins and right tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif are taking a step forward in their progress toward returning to action, but neither player seems likely to play in Sunday's season finale against the Oakland Raiders.
Head coach Andy Reid said Watkins had been wearing a protecting boot on his injured right foot as a preventive measure. Watkins is out of the cast now, but didn't practice on Wednesday.
“The doc says he just wanted it to settle down,” Reid said. “They felt the best way to do that was put him in a cast. He's out of the cast, moving around, just going through the rehab process of getting back.”
Watkins injured his right foot against the Cleveland Browns in Week 9. He played just one since, taking five snaps against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 11.
Duvernay-Tardif remains on injured reserve, but he returned to practice on Wednesday. The 27-year-old lineman suffered a Maisonneuve fracture in his left leg against Jacksonville in Week 5. The injury involved a fracture of his fibula along with ligament damage in his ankle. Duvernay-Tardif worked on the side with trainers last week before returning to practice Wednesday.
Reid said he plans to bring Duvernay-Tardif along gradually.
“It's just a matter of getting in and playing, getting caught up with the speed of the game,” Reid said. We practice fast so you get an idea of it.”
Given that Duvernay-Tardif hasn't played in nearly three months, Reid said the challenge lies in getting back into football shape as best as possible this late in the season.
“And then testing it against pro athletes, not the trainers. He's going against big bodies and guys that are quick and how does it feel there,” Reid said.
The coach said that Duvernay-Tardif, who holds a medical degree from McGill University, understands the nature of recovery from injuries better than most players.
“He knows the other side of it, too, he's got the answer to the test,” Reid said. “Not a lot of guys have that, so he kind of knows what needs to be done to take care of it. He works at it hard.”
Duvernay-Tardif's return to practice starts a three-week window during week he can practice before the Chiefs must return him to the active roster or leave him on injured reserve the remainder of the season. The Chiefs can only return one more player from injured reserve after activating safety Daniel Sorensen earlier this season. Duvernay-Tardif's return would permanently end the season for rookie safety Armani Watts, who remains on injured reserve with a groin injury
If the Chiefs beat Oakland on Sunday, they clinch home-field advantage during the AFC playoffs and a first-round bye. That means the Chiefs wouldn't play again until the weekend of Jan. 12-13, providing both Watkins and Duvernay-Tardif an extra week of recovery.