KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The frustration showed on the face of Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson as he slammed his helmet to the turf, understanding almost immediately he sustained a second ruptured Achilles tendon that ends his season just as his team took the lead in the AFC with a 21-13 win over the Oakland Raiders.
Quarterback Alex Smith said he knew the injury was serious from the look on Johnson’s face.
“So bummed,” Smith said. “You know what one hurts. I do not think there is a guy in that locker room that doesn’t look up to D.J.”
Linebacker Dee Ford said the defense made adjustments to win the game, but the loss of Johnson delivers a big blow.
“My heart goes out to him,” Ford said. “It is hard, but we are going to keep moving. That’s life. We are going to miss him.
Johnson sustained an Achilles tendon rupture in his right foot during the first game of the 2015 season that kept him out the rest of the season. This injury struck the Achilles tendon in his left foot.
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said the team possesses several options for how to proceed without Johnson.
“We’ll be alright,” Reid said. “We’re not going to have another D.J., but we’ll be alright. Nobody is going to hang their head.”
The Chiefs adjusted in the second half against Oakland primarily with linebacker Ramik Wilson as the lone middle linebacker. Safety Daniel Sorensen supplemented in nickel and dime coverages, with safety Ron Parker also providing run support.
The team carries two backup middle linebackers with D.J. Alexander and Terrance Smith. Alexander plays primarily special teams and the Chiefs recently promoted Smith from the practice squad.
The Chiefs have two inside linebackers on injured reserve in Justin March-Lillard and Josh Mauga. The Chiefs can designate one player to return from injured reserve during the season.
“We have the flexibility to do that, but I’ll have to see what direction we go here,” Reid said after Thursday night’s game. “Then, if they’re healthy enough to come back.”
March-Lilard sustained a broken hand during the team’s week six win at Oakland. The team did not rule out the possibility of his return later this season.
But the possible return of Mauga conflicts with what the Chiefs said when placing him on injured reserve in August. Head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder said Mauga underwent surgery for a labral tear in his hip. Recovery from labral tears can vary widely from four to six months or more depending on the nature and extent of damage.
“That will put him down for the year because it’s a long rehab process back,” Burkholder said in August.
Reid said he and general manager John Dorsey would consider all options.
“Dorsey is going to sit down and go over all that,” Reid said. “I haven’t me with him on it yet. We’ll do that tomorrow and see what the options are.”