Spencer Ware Brings Familiarity, Versatility in Return to Chiefs Backfield

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Injuries have played a significant role in the career of Spencer Ware, and it's injuries once again playing fate in reuniting the running back with the Chiefs while restoring his faith in football.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Ware said in the Kansas City locker room Thursday. “I'm glad to be back here, obviously back doing what I love to do. Just here to help my team win.”

The last time Ware saw the field in an NFL game was in the AFC Championship at Arrowhead Stadium in January. Ware played 10 snaps, catching a 21-yard pass from Patrick Mahomes that helped setup the game-tying field goal to force overtime.

Ware played a limited role for the Chiefs last season, rushing for 246 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. He also averaged 11.2 yards per catch out of the backfield with 20 receptions for 224 yards. It marked a remarkable comeback for the 28-year-old, who missed the 2017 with a posterolateral corner injury in his right knee. It's an injury from which few NFL players make a successful return.

The Chiefs and Ware parted ways after the season, however. Ware signed a one-year, $1.3 million deal with the Colts, but an ankle injury forced required surgery. The club reached an injury settlement with him in August, making him a free agent. He spent the past four months rehabbing and preparing for an opportunity to help a team at running back late in the season.

“I have faith that whatever happens was going to happen,” Ware said. “Most importantly health, so surgery, got what I needed to take care of in order for me to have my career to go longer. That's the main priority, body first.”

When he wasn't rehabbing, Ware bided his time with his family and working with the Sickle Cell aWAREness Foundation he founded.

“I've been following a bunch of football, just seeing what's going on,” Ware said. “Besides that just trying to stay busy, foundation, sickle cell awareness foundation, so I've been tied up in there and being a family man.”

With Damien Williams battling a rib injury and Darrel Williams suffering a season-ending hamstring injury Sunday against Oakland, the Chiefs gave a call to their old friend. With the ankle injury behind him and his right knee feeling good, Ware feels ready to go and hit the ground running in a familiar offense.

“I'm a fast learner anyway, that's how I value myself in that aspect as far as picking up playbooks and things like that real fast,” Ware said about his knowledge of the Chiefs offense. “It does help though, it does help more so, more comfortable for the guys that I'm playing with and coaches and stuff like that, being able to trust me in certain situations.”

It's that trust in Ware upon with the Chiefs are banking. Darrel Williams served as their Swiss Army knife in the backfield, the “Mr. Consistent” who can do a little bit of everything, especially as a third-down back who can run, catch and pass. Running backs coach Deland McCullough says Ware shares those same traits.

'They can come in and be versatile, do a bunch of different things, be mentally sound as far as protections and doing all their assignments and things like that,” McCullough said.

Ware shared the backfield with Damien Williams and a backup last season, but LeSean McCoy and Darwin Thompson are new faces to him. He's looking forward to working with McCoy, a back he's admire for a long time.

“Just exciting to be in the room with another veteran with his type of career that he's had,” Ware said. “Just take it in, listen, take what you can from him and continue to move forward and try to get better”

In Thompson, Ware sees a little bit of himself. Ware received his first big NFL break due to injuries, and he made the most of it. His first NFL start came in Week 12 of the 2015 season against Buffalo. With Jamaal Charles and Charcandrick West out with injuries, Ware rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries against the Bills. He won the starting job in 2016 with Charles battling knee issues, finishing with a career-high 921 yards rushing in 14 games and catching 33 passes for 447 yards.

Thompson has that opportunity now with the Chiefs keeping McCoy on a snap count and wanting to work in Ware slowly.

“(Thompson) seems very excited, very excited for his opportunity,” Ware said. “Me being in the situation he's been in before, I'm pretty sure we'll get a chance to chop it up or whatnot. Just make sure he's ready. I'm pretty sure he's ready.”

If Damien Williams can't play Sunday at New England, the Chiefs are ready to roll with a backfield by committee of McCoy, Thompson and Ware. How much Ware can contribute immediately we'll depend on preparation this week, says offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy.

“One thing I will say, he's mentally sharp, he knows our system inside and out,” Bieniemy said. “And one thing we'll do, we'll just play it by ear and see exactly how it's going to unfold on game day.”

For his part, Ware feels ready to play immediately.

“Hope to,” he said. “Whatever they need me, that's what I'm here for.”