KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It served as no surprise that the return of safety of Ron Parker to the Chiefs' defensive backfield this week elicited a feeling of relief from teammates old and new alike.
“They welcomed me back with open arms,” Parker said. “It felt like everybody just gave me a big group hug.”
The Chiefs secondary faces challenge entering the first week of the season without the two players expected to start as the last line of defense at safety. The club already knew it would be without Daniel Sorensen for the first half of the season after he underwent surgery for a tibial plateau fracture in early August. But the troublesome right heel of Eric Berry, listed as doubtful for the season opener, deprives the Chiefs of their top two safeties and prompted a scramble by general manager Brett Veach as the preseason close.
First Veach made a deal acquiring third-year safety Jordan Lucas in a trade with Miami. Lucas played primarily special teams with the Dolphins the past two seasons, but the Chiefs like the flexibility of Lucas to play multiple roles at safety.
But the more critical move came with the re-introduction of Parker to the defense. Parker developed into a mainstay in the Chiefs' defensive backfield the past five seasons. He knows defensive coordinator Bob Sutton's defense inside and out, adding tribal knowledge to a secondary group that includes newcomer Lucas and rookie Armani Watts behind Eric Murray.
“I feel like especially with me just being in Bob's system and knowing what's going on,” Parker said, “I think that's going to maximize my opportunities to be me and go out there and perform at a high level like I'm capable of. I think that's the good thing about coming back here to Kansas City.”
Murray feels the secondary has rolled with the punches of injuries and the roster shuffle well.
“The people that they bring in they're genuinely good people and they're easy to work with,” Murray said in reference to Parker and Lucas. “It's not really a problem, it's just getting everyone up to the same speed and on the same page is the thing.”
Getting the defense working as a unit may serve as the bigger challenge. Injuries kept several other starters on the bench during the preseason, including linebackers Reggie Ragland and Anthony Hitchens. The club also is working Orlando Scandrick into the rotation at nickel back. As a result, the defense that plays the majority of the snaps on Sunday may have played little to zero snaps together during the preseason.
“It's like knocking the rust off almost,” Murray said. “But it's also building that chemistry with everybody and being on the same page at the same time.”
Parker said he and Berry knew each other well enough on the field to communicate with a single look.
“We just make eye contact and we know what each other's doing,” Parker said.” With other guys, we have to communicate more of course because we haven't spent as much time as me and Eric did just being out on the field together.”
Head coach Andy Reid believes his quartet of safeties can rally together and fill the breach for Week 1.
“There are some young guys at that position, but we also have some veteran guys, so it’s a nice little blend,” Reid said. “They have good communication back there. It will be a nice challenge for them.”
Parker also remains confident the quartet of safeties can handle the challenge of dealing with the Chargers and quarterback Philip Rivers.
“It's difficult but I think with the trust those guys have in me and with the trust I have in those guys, I think it will overlap in everything will take care of itself as long we handle our business inside the building and take care of business before Sunday,” Parker said.