KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Looking around the Kansas City Chiefs running back room, C.J. Spiller knows exactly what makes him different from teammates like Kareem Hunt and Charcandrick West.
“Experience,” Spiller said. “Being around this thing going on to eight years, obviously that stuff helps,” Spiller said.
The Chiefs signed Spiller in February, and one reason became clear four days later. The team released Jamaal Charles, the franchise’s all-time leading rusher. A wealth of experience and institutional knowledge walked out the door.
Spiller’s stat sheets shows 710 career rushes. The other Chiefs running backs on the roster combined have fewer than that. With Spencer Ware facing the prospect of season-ending knee surgery, the Chiefs may now rely on Spiller’s knowledge more than ever.
“C.J.’s got a lot of experience and it’s good to hear that from him and being able to have a guy like that coach me up,” Hunt said.
Hunt stands next in line as the Chiefs starting running back. The promotion comes sooner than either the Chiefs or even Hunt himself expected. The young running back needs a mentor, and that role falls to an eager Spiller.
“The young guys are still learning it, and that’s my job to make sure that they understand what it means to be a true professional,” Spiller said.
The 30-year-old Spiller believes he can still start in the NFL, and that remains his goal. Yet Spiller understands that his greatest value to the team lies with preparing Hunt for the challenges ahead.
“I also prepare as a starter because you just never know what’s going to take place on the field,” Spiller said. “But it’s my job to make sure that he’s mentally and physically ready to go out there with the ones to be able to get his job done.”
Spiller spent five seasons in Buffalo, splitting the running back role with Fred Jackson. He then spent the last two seasons as an NFL nomad. His journey includes stops with New Orleans, Seattle and the New York Jets.
In Kansas City, Spiller found a home that fits his personality.
“The thing that I love about it is that everybody comes to work everyday and puts in the work and studies and tries to get their craft ready to go for the upcoming season,” Spiller said. And that’s all you can ask for as a group.”
Spiller’s steady preseason performance appears to rank him a No. 2 on the team’s running back depth chart with Ware on the sidelines. His critique of his own performance shows is own personal high standards.
“It hasn’t been horrible but it hasn’t be spectacular either,” Spiller said. “I’ve had plays here and there, but I’m just trying to clean up some small stuff that I can control to help, not only me, but make the whole offense better.”
Spiller could never carry the ball for the Chiefs yet still play a valuable role. Spiller’s main mission focuses on nurturing Hunt into his potential as a feature back.
“He’s going to continue to learn, figure stuff out,” Spiller said. “I’m going to share a ton of my knowledge that I have with him to help him enhance his game.”
Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.