KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs wide receiver Dwayne Bowe, who missed the regular season finale with a concussion, and linebacker Justin Houston, out since suffering an elbow injury in Week 12, are anxious to return to the field.
They couldn’t pick a better spot given Saturday’s contest is the first playoff game for the Chiefs since the 2010 season.
“I’m just ready to go,” Bowe told reporters Wednesday. “You know games like this, big-time players and big-time games. These are the games that I mostly show up in with everything on the line and great preparation all week. It’s win or go home.”
And there’s a sense of optimism among Chiefs players they won’t be doing the latter following Saturday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts.
“Everybody’s mindset is we are not ready to go home,” Houston said. “As long as we keep practicing the way we are practicing and everybody is putting in extra work in the film room, we are going to be all right.”
For Houston, not playing the final five games proved especially hard because of the camaraderie he has with teammates.
“It’s very tough knowing if you were out there you could make a difference and just sitting back watching it on TV and not really being with the team, it was very tough,” Houston said. “I love being around my teammates.
“I feel like we’re a family so anytime you’re with your family you feel comfortable, you feel like you’re at home and you’re enjoying being with them. Not being with them as much as I wanted to, it was tough.”
A year later
The Chiefs a year ago were turning over a coaching staff and front office on the heels of a disastrous 2-14 campaign.
Now at 11-5 as the No. 5 seed, they’re preparing for the first round of the playoffs and that doesn’t surprise wide receiver Dwayne Bowe.
“I thought it was,” Bowe said during Wednesday’s media session when asked if he thought the success of this season was possible.
Of course, the Chiefs returned six Pro Bowlers from a season ago and have eight Pro Bowlers as an encore.
The roster wasn’t devoid of talent, but Bowe explained the change at the top played a significant role in the team’s rebound season.
“We always had great players, but we just needed a staff that knows how to handle guys at this stature,” Bowe said. “We fortunately had a chance to work with (coach) Andy (Reid) and (general manager) John Dorsey. And those guys know what they’re doing on this side of the football and it’s been paying off.”
All systems go
No worries with linebacker Justin Houston, who practiced fully last week and is listed as a full participant on Wednesday’s injury report.
“I’m back,” Houston said. “My elbow is fine.”
Moreover, there apparently aren’t concerns if Houston will be limited despite the brace adorning his right arm on the practice field.
“I’m doing everything I was doing before I hurt it,” he said. “I’m back to normal.”
While Houston sat out, the Chiefs had an opportunity to see what other players could do and defensive coordinator Bob Sutton appeared pleased.
“Guys stepped up and you build a confidence level in them,” Sutton said. “And probably more important, they build a confidence level in themselves because you need to be out there to have that feeling.”
Still, Sutton didn’t hide his enthusiasm of getting his defense back to 100 percent.
“We’re excited about having all of those guys back,” Sutton said. “And hopefully it will produce what we’re looking for on defense.”
Faith in Succop
While kicker Ryan Succop went 22-of-28 on field goal attempts during the regular season, last week’s missed potential game-winner marked the second straight week he’s misfired.
However, special teams coordinator Dave Toub expressed unwavering faith in the fifth-year kicker out of South Carolina.
“We have confidence in him,” Toub told reporters. “We’ve seen it in practice. I think he was thinking about the other kicks that he had missed because if you go back and look at the ones that he missed it was right, left, right.”
Toub said assistant special teams coach Kevin O’Dea has talked to Succop about focusing on the present kick and not the previous misses.
“I think he was thinking,” Toub said of Succop. “And we know that he was thinking about the other kicks.”
Notes: Linebacker Tamba Hali (knee) and right tackle Eric Fisher (groin, shoulder) did not practice Wednesday … Fisher strained his groin during Tuesday’s practice and did not finish … “I’m so proud of the guys, they’ve worked so hard,” Toub said of the special teams unit setting an NFL single-season record for highest kickoff return average with 29.9 yards this season (1,316 yards on 44 returns).