KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs on Saturday activated veteran inside linebacker Joe Mays to the 53-man roster ahead of Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills.
The 29-year-old Mays was projected to start at left inside linebacker prior to suffering the wrist injury during the second preseason game against the Carolina Panthers.
The Chiefs placed the 5-11, 244-pound Mays on injured reserve with a designation for return on Sept. 2 after he underwent surgery to repair ligament damage to his right wrist in August.
He returned to the practice field in Week 9 and was observed on the field in two straight weeks during the portion of practices open to the media leading to Saturday’s transaction.
While it remains to be seen if Mays will immediately return to the starting lineup against Buffalo, he offers depth behind current starting inside linebackers Josh Mauga and James Michael-Johnson.
Mauga filled in for Mays after the injury and has started all eight games, leading the Chiefs in tackles with 57 (51 solo). Mauga is also the “green dot” defensive player, giving him the radio headset with the coaching staff on the sideline.
Johnson, who ranks fifth on the team with 29 tackles (24 solo), has appeared in eight games with six starts. He took over at right inside linebacker for Derrick Johnson, who suffered a season-ending ruptured Achilles tendon in Week 1.
Mauga or Johnson can contribute on special teams, which is a requirement considering the Chiefs waived linebacker Jerry Franklin to make room for Mays.
The likely scenario if Mays starts is he’ll line up next to Mauga, with Johnson taking a backup role while contributing on special teams where he recorded eight tackles in 2013 for the Chiefs.
Franklin, who suffered a hamstring injury in Week 9, contributed mostly on special teams where he had three tackles.
The Chiefs originally signed Franklin to the practice squad on Aug. 31 before elevating him to the active roster on Sept. 9 to boost linebacker depth after Derrick Johnson’s injury.
It wouldn’t surprise if the Chiefs brought back Franklin to the practice squad provided he clears waivers.
Mays, who enters his seventh professional season, signed a two-year, $6 million free-agent deal with the Chiefs on March 12.
Mays originally entered the NFL out of North Dakota State in 2008 as a sixth-round pick (200th overall) of the Philadelphia Eagles.
He has appeared in 61 career games (35 starts) and totaled 194 tackles (141 solo) in six previous seasons with the Eagles (2008-09), Denver Broncos (2010-12) and Houston Texans (2013).