KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs have been hammered by injuries this season and another “next man up” scenario present itself entering Sunday’s game against the San Diego Chargers.
Nickel cornerback Chris Owens (knee) missed a second straight practice Thursday, placing his status in doubt for Week 7.
The Chiefs could turn to rookie cornerback Phillip Gaines or cornerback Jamell Fleming in the event Owens can’t play.
But don’t expect the coaching staff to publicly commit to one ahead of Sunday.
“That’s one of those deals I wouldn’t tell you who it’s going to be,” defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said Thursday, “but as much as I’d like to you know. We are working a couple of different guys in there and see. That’s going to have to wait to see it, see where it is after Friday’s practice.”
Gaines, who returns from a concussion suffered in Week 5, said he is medically cleared. The proof is found on the injury report where the Chiefs list Gaines as practicing fully in two straight days.
The team’s third-round pick of the 2014 NFL Draft said the possibility of more playing time from his usual role on special teams hasn’t changed his approach.
“It always stays the same because you never know when someone is going to get hurt,” Gaines said. “If you don’t prepare that way, you get thrown in there and that’s when bad things happen, so you always have to prepare like you’re going to play the next snap.”
Cornerback Sean Smith appeared eager to see what Gaines or Fleming will do in the event of extended playing time.
“It’s always fun to have new guys step in there because we all believe in one another and hold each other accountable,” starting cornerback Sean Smith said. “We’ve seen all year what these guys can do in practice, so they finally get a shot to go out there and make a name for themselves. I know they’re both very excited about the opportunity.”
Gaines had the luxury of being with the Chiefs throughout organized team activities, minicamp and training camp, and he’s familiar with the scheme.
Meanwhile, the Chiefs signed Fleming from the Baltimore Ravens practice squad on Sept. 12, so it could make more sense to lean more on Gaines against the Chargers.
But regardless whoever is on the field should Owens be unavailable, that player is expected to know his specific job and perform.
“When we’re out there on the field,” Smith said, “we’re not going to sugarcoat anything or hold anybody’s hand out there. You have to go out there and man-up. That’s something that we know both of them are capable of doing. We expect them to keep the standard up high.”
Holding the high standard faces a stiff test against Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers.
The Chiefs haven’t allowed a 300-yard passer all season and currently rank seventh against the pass, allowing 214.4 yards a game.
Rivers, however, has passed for 300-plus yards in two of the last three games as the Chargers ride a five-game winning streak.
“They’re just a really good team,” Gaines said. “They’re really hot right now. Philip Rivers is doing some really good things for their team, so it’s going to be a nice little challenge going against them.”