KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs are likely to experience rotations along the offensive line as a trio of starters deal with injuries heading into Week 13.
Left tackle Eric Fisher (neck) put in a limited practice Wednesday, while guard Jeff Allen (ankle) and rookie center Mitch Morse (concussion) did not practice.
But quarterback Alex Smith isn’t concerned based on how he’s watched the unit grow since the season started.
“Maybe early in the year it was hard on us, but I think at this point it starts to become a strength,” Smith said. “We’ve had a lot of guys play at a high level and I think Sunday was a great example of that. When you’ve got Zach (Fulton) and Donald (Stephenson) coming in, I don’t think anybody blinked twice.”
Fulton and Stephenson’s ability to provide immediate help in Week 12 showed the offensive line’s depth to handle the injuries to Fisher and Morse. Allen, of course, finished the game after briefly leaving with his injury.
“We feel good about those guys,” Smith said of Fulton and Stephenson. “Those guys work extremely hard, they stay ready and they’ve played at a really high level for us in the past. So I don’t think anyone expected anything less. And it’s that time of the year, guys are going to get banged up and move around and obviously as the week goes on, we’ll find out how healthy we get.”
With Morse still not cleared, the Chiefs elevated rookie center Daniel Munyer from the practice squad to the 53-man roster. Munyer, who spent the entire offseason and training camp with Chiefs, provides depth behind Fulton, who would likely start at center.
The Chiefs have a few days to evaluate potential starters, but Smith doesn’t have any anxiety over the offensive line regardless who lines up.
“Every single one of those guys has played a lot of football for us and played at a high level,” Smith said. “I do think that, yeah, that’s comforting. Those guys have stepped in, those guys are used to moving around and those guys have all played.”
CHEMISTRY IN OAKLAND
Raiders center Rodney Hudson, the Chiefs’ second-round pick of the 2011 NFL Draft, signed a five-year deal with Oakland in March.
And quarterback Derek Carr thinks very highly of the former Chiefs center, pointing out the chemistry the two have developed.
“It’s amazing,” Carr said in a conference call with Chiefs beat writers. “He’s one of the coolest guys to be around. He’s one of the best centers in this league, if not the best. So the fact that he’s here now and we have him is definitely a blessing and I’m thankful for it.”
Some players tend to carry extra motivation when facing a former team, but Carr said he doesn’t sense that Sunday’s matchup carries any special meaning to Hudson.
“I haven’t seen any change in his demeanor,” Carr said. “I haven’t seen any change in his preparation. And he hasn’t said like ‘oh man, I can’t wait for that one,’ or when he signed here, ‘I can’t wait for that,’ or anything like that.
“He’s the same guy every day, and I think that’s what makes him one of the best in this league. It doesn’t matter what the game is, he’s going to prepare like this is the one we need to win. So he’s a true professional and I’m glad that we have him.”
It didn’t take long for Carr to realize he had a special weapon in rookie wide receiver Amari Cooper.
“Once he was on our team I knew he was special because I watched him play, I watched him grow in his career at Alabama,” Carr said. “It feels like they’re on TV all of the time, so I got to watch a lot of his football games not even knowing him or knowing that we would be teammates or anything like that, so I got to watch him grow as a player. I’m a football fan, so I kind of enjoy watching good players play in college and all of those things and he was definitely one of them.”
Cooper comes off a game where he totaled seven catches for 115 yards to become the first Raiders rookie with four 100-yard receiving games. On the season, Cooper has 58 catches for 851 yards and four touchdowns.
Of course, Cooper isn’t alone, as Carr also has wide receiver Michael Crabtree, who has 61 catches for 751 yards and six touchdowns.
And both wide receivers provide their quarterback plenty of ‘wow’ moments.
“Him (Cooper) and Crabtree make one-handed catches like it’s nothing in walkthrough and it’s stuff they do, it’s ridiculous,” Carr said. “I tell them that I have better hands than them and they just laugh at me. I’m just messing with them, but it’s fun to watch them do certain things in practice. To know that they’re on my team it makes me feel a lot better.”
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.