KANSAS CITY — The Kansas City Chiefs could have wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster back for this weekend’s game against the Los Angeles Rams after he returned to practice Wednesday for the first time since landing in concussion protocol two weeks ago.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Smith-Schuster must complete a practice session to officially clear the record, but signs suggest he will be available Sunday. And that would be a big boost for a Chiefs offense missing wide receiver Mecole Hardman and possibly Kadarius Toney, who missed Wednesday’s practice with a hamstring injury.
“Hopefully things are going well with protocol and stuff like that, he’s ready to go,” said Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes. “Having that energy on the sidelines – he’s a great player and a great teammate and you always want to have those guys in the huddle.”
Right-back Joe Thuney missed Wednesday’s training session with an ankle injury, although Reid said things are getting better. Safety Juan Thornhill trained despite a calf injury and cornerback Jaylen Watson trained despite a bad hand.
The Chiefs also made a number of roster moves, putting running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain; they activated offensive lineman Lucas Niang into the 53-man roster after spending the start of the season on the PUP list; and they brought Kendall Blanton into the training squad after Jordan Franks was injured.
The decision to put Edwards-Helaire on IR comes shortly after the 2020 first-round pick ceded the starting job to seventh-round draft pick Isiah Pacheco. The Chiefs also have Jerick McKinnon in the backfield, although he poses a threat primarily in passing, and veteran Ronald Jones II could make his debut on Sunday.
“There’s a chance he’ll play. I mean, a legitimate chance,” Reid said, “but within that he has to make sure he’s got all the protections in place, the timing of the runs. Those are the things we look at. But he worked on it.”
Smith-Schuster just missed the 30-27 win over the Chargers last week after a vicious helmet-to-helmet shot from Jacksonville’s Andre Cisco the previous week left him motionless on the turf of Arrowhead Stadium.
Smith-Schuster, who signed a one-year proof-it contract with Kansas City, has been more productive as he familiarizes himself with Mahomes and the offense. He caught five passes for 113 yards and a touchdown against Buffalo, seven for 124 yards and one hit against San Francisco, and ten for 88 yards against Tennessee before injuring himself.
Justin Watson led the Chiefs with three catches for 67 yards against the Chargers last Sunday. Skyy Moore had the best game of his rookie season with five catches for 63 yards. The only other wide receiver in their exhausted group to catch a pass was Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who had an 18-yard grab for his four goals.
Moore’s performance, a second-round draft pick, was perhaps the most encouraging of them.
“He fought sometimes, but you know what? It never put him in a dark place,” said Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. “We always knew exactly what he was capable of. He just needed that opportunity to just go out there and shine.”