Four key players among missing as Chiefs begin offseason practice

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Eighty-four members of the Kansas City Chiefs gathered on the practice field Tuesday for the first time since the January divisional round postseason loss to the New England Patriots, the hope being it’s the first step toward a deeper advance into the playoffs this season.

“We kind of knocked the rust off today," coach Andy Reid said after the first of 13 scheduled full-squad offseason practices had concluded. “It’s a non-contact day, or camp, so there’s not a lot you can do with tackling and blocking and all that. But the passing game, you can work the timing of that, which is a good thing."

Among those missing from practice were four key players: running back Jamaal Charles, linebackers Justin Houston and Tamba Hali and safety Eric Berry. The first three are rehabbing from knee surgery, and Berry is the Chiefs' franchise player and unsigned.

The Chiefs also practiced without veteran wide receiver Mike Williams, who was recently signed as a free agent. Williams has what the Chiefs are calling a strained hamstring.

The Chiefs expect all of the injured players except Houston back in time for the start of training camp in July. Berry will rejoin the Chiefs once he’s signed a contract.

Houston had surgery in February on his faulty ACL. The Chiefs said a best-case scenario for Houston’s return would be six months from the time of surgery, which would put him back in time for the start of the regular season on Sept. 11.

The Chiefs have maintained plenty of public optimism Houston would return sooner rather than later. General manager John Dorsey recently said he was optimistic Houston would play this season, though he wasn’t more specific with a timetable.

“We’re all optimistic because we know the kid and how bad he wants to be back," Reid said. “At the same time, we’ve just got to let it heal. Whenever he’s back, he’s back. Whenever he’s ready, he’s back and we roll from there.

“We’re all optimistic because he’s so optimistic."

The Chiefs received some good injury news when cornerback Phillip Gaines participated in individual drills. Gaines, who missed most of last season with a torn ACL, came out of the starting lineup when the Chiefs moved into team drills and was replaced by Steven Nelson.