KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Super Bowl aspirations of the Kansas City Chiefs may very well rest on the balky knees of Pro Bowlers Jamaal Charles and Tamba Hali, two veteran leaders with changing attitudes and priorities as the enter a season with the biggest expectations of their careers.
For Hali, fighting for statistics and playing time no longer hold charm for him. It’s about winning.
“This isn’t just for one game or five games or getting sacks,” Hali said. “This is for getting to the Super Bowl healthy, and when you’re healthy in January you see what that can do for you.”
The personal journey for Charles through his recovery means as much spiritually as it does physically.
“I feel like I learned, I grew a lot in my spiritual life,” Charles said “That’s kind of holding me right now. I think if I didn’t have that right now, I think I’d be losing my mind right now.
The Chiefs have taken a cautious yet steady approach with both players in their recovery, hoping the payoff is their ability to make impact plays in the postseason. Coach Andy Reid said Hali is a bit further along than Charles so far, but both players continue making progress.
“It looks like everyday they’re getting a little bit better,” Reid said.
Hali battles daily against the pain in his knees. He says Larry Johnson Sr., former Penn State assistant coach, began preparing him in college to fight pain to play the game.
“If you can just fight through it mentally, physically you’ll get it done,” Hali said. “I think mentally I’ve been over prepared to play this game with any type of pain.”
Reid said the biggest challenge for Charles is trust rather than pain, trusting that his knee can do what he needs it to do on the field.
“Every day he does a little bit more and a little bit more, and his cuts are a little sharper,” Reid said. “It’s just a matter of time, and we’re OK there, we’re OK with that.”
Charles said faith provides him with confidence when the time comes, his body will respond.
“Me worrying about my knee good or not good, or it’s going to get better, I can’t worry about that,” Charles explained. “I’ve got to get myself ready mentally and physically, so I’m there.”
The offseason proved life-changing for Charles as he worked his way back through a second surgery for a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Charles was baptized for the second time in January, and says he has turned the The Bible and his faith for spiritual restoration. As a result, he says he’s happier than at any point in his career and wants to comeback to inspire others facing challenges.
“That’s kind of hold me down where I’m at,” Charles said. “I’m just being joyful and thankful, having thanksgiving in these moments right now, because I could be on the couch watching TV.”
The 32-year-old Hali does not how much punishment his body can sustain over a 16-game season, but his willing to see to win a championship.
“I love playing the game,” Hali said. “It takes a huge toll on our bodies, but I still enjoy playing it, I still love being around the guys. The ultimate goal is to win a championship here, the Super Bowl, and that’s my drive.”
Charles also remains unsure what the season holds and whether or not he can be the workhorse running back from days past.
“When my time come, it’s going to come,” Charles said. “It’s not my time, it’s on God time, and that’s what I got to trust.”
Matt Derrick is the associate editor for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.