KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Kansas City Chiefs designated linebacker Justin March-Lillard to return from injured reserve, a move which also spells the end of the season for running back Jamaal Charles.
The move allows March-Lillard to rejoin the team for practice for up to weeks before activated to the 53-man roster. The linebacker’s return adds much-needed depth to the Kansas City linebacker corps following the season-ending Achilles injury against Oakland Dec. 8.
March-Lillard sustained a broken bone in his hand during the team’s week six win at Oakland on Oct. 16.
His return provides the Chiefs with a bit more experience at the inside linebacker position, and allows both March-Lillard and Ramik Wilson to play their more natural positions. March-Lillard’s background includes more time as a roaming Will linebacker in the mold of Johnson. Wilson has more experience in the Mike linebacker position, playing the offense head on.
But the Chiefs can only return one player from injured reserve per season. That means the end of the season for Charles, whom the team placed on injured reserve Nov. 1 after he underwent a meniscus trim on his right knee. Charles later had exploratory surgery on his left knee as well.
The transaction ends confusing rhetoric in recent weeks regarding the possible return of Charles. Media reports from sources close to Charles indicated the veteran running could return to the team for a playoff run.
But coach Andy Reid poured cold water on that report last week, indicating Charles continued to rehab in Alabama at the clinic of orthopedic surgeon James Andrews and not with the team in Kansas City.
The next question for the Chiefs and Charles is whether the 29-year-old running back returns for the final year of his contract. Charles hits $7 million toward the team’s salary cap in 2017. But none of that figure is guaranteed, which means the team could move on from Charles with no salary cap penalty.