KANSAS CITY, Mo. – In a perfect world, the Chiefs will have starting outside linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali in the lineup for the first round of the playoffs.
Hali appears on track to be ready for Saturday’s game against the Houston Texans after playing 14 of 57 total defensive snaps in the season finale.
The limited snaps were by design for Hali, who missed Week 16 after undergoing surgery to repair his right thumb and has dealt with a knee swelling throughout the season.
“I wanted to ease him back in is what I wanted to do there, let him get use to his brace,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters Monday. “I wanted to come out of this without his knee swelling up, so we just used him on third-down pass situations.”
Hali, who played with a heavily bandaged right hand, recorded a tackle Sunday against the Oakland Raiders and Reid appeared pleased with the performance.
“He got out, he got some reps in and some work in and knock some of the rust off,” Reid said. “And at the same time, did it at game speed, which I thought was important.”
Reid indicated that Hali could have played more, so there doesn’t appear to be concern for Hali’s availability for the playoffs.
Houston’s status, however, is unclear.
Houston missed the final five games of the regular season while recovering from a hyperextended knee suffered in Week 12.
Reid said Houston remains “day-by-day” and the Chiefs will continue to evaluate the fifth-year pro’s progress.
But there is room for optimism, as Houston returned to a limited practice last Friday for the first time since suffering the injury.
“If he can practice, that’s an advantage,” Reid said. “That was one of the things of getting him back in there last week as long as he was feeling all right.”
The Chiefs could certainly use a healthy Houston back in the lineup.
Second-year pro Dee Ford, who has filled in during Houston’s absence, sustained a blow to the head Sunday and is now in the concussion protocol.
The Chiefs return to practice Tuesday in preparation for the first round of the playoffs.
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.