Chiefs RT Donald Stephenson’s exact role still undetermined

Aug 17, 2014; Charlotte, NC; Chiefs RT Donald Stephenson (79) blocks while RB Knile Davis (34) runs the ball during a preseason game against the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Aug 17, 2014; Charlotte, NC; Chiefs RT Donald Stephenson (79) blocks while RB Knile Davis (34) runs the ball during a preseason game against the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs right tackle Donald Stephenson returned from a four-game suspension in time for Week 5’s game against the San Francisco 49ers, but saw just three snaps on special teams.

While the limited action makes sense given Stephenson’s time away, it doesn’t appear the Chiefs are in a rush to hand the starting job back to the third-year pro.

“Right now Ryan (Harris) is doing a nice job in there and we have some good continuity going in there on the offensive line,” offensive line coach Andy Heck said Tuesday. “Getting Donald back in the mix, we’ll just see how it goes.”

The Chiefs named the 6-6, 312-pound Stephenson the starting right tackle during the offseason.

But Stephenson’s suspension, which the NFL announced on Aug. 22, for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancing substances threw the offensive line in flux.

Jeff Allen moved from left guard to Stephenson’s spot before Allen landed on injured reserve with an elbow injury suffered in Week 1.

The Chiefs then turned to Harris, a seventh-year pro who signed with the team shortly before training camp started. Harris has started at right tackle four straight games.

That leaves Stephenson’s exact role in limbo for now as the Chiefs enter the bye week.

“We had him available to us as a swing tackle last week,” Heck said. “It’s good to have Donald back in the mix. He’s a good football player. He’s part of our group. And the way we approach it in the O-Line is ‘all hands on deck.’ We’re going to need everybody before it’s all said and done.”

CLOSING IN ON A RECORD

Running back Jamaal Charles currently sits at 6,018 yards rushing for his career and is the second-leading rusher in Chiefs history.

Charles, a seventh-year pro, is 53 yards rushing shy overtaking Priest Holmes, the Chiefs’ all-time leading rusher at 6,070 yards.

Still, running backs coach Eric Bieniemy points out Charles isn’t the type of player to crave the spotlight even with the record within reach.

“He’s all about team goals,” Bieniemy said Tuesday. “But in my opinion, I know this is a special deal for him.”

And the significance of the accomplishment – when it happens, of course – isn’t lost.

“Maybe I’m talking out of turn,” Bieniemy said, “but to say that he will become the leading rusher for this historical organization says a lot about him, says a lot about all the hard work and self-sacrifice that he’s put into his profession. And that goes a long way. I am very, very proud of him, but also too, I am blessed and fortunate to have an opportunity just to be here.”

Bieniemy said he believes Charles will be more appreciative of the achievement “later in life.”

But for now, Charles has aspirations outside of the team record.

“Jamaal has bigger goals set,” Bieniemy said. “Obviously he wants to win the Super Bowl; he wants to accomplish other goals in life.”

INJURY UPDATES

The Chiefs left San Francisco with three notable injuries, two coming from the defensive secondary.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Monday rookie cornerback Phillip Gaines suffered a concussion against the 49ers, adding Gaines “should be OK.”

Reid said cornerback Chris Owens sustained a sprained lateral collateral ligament and bone bruise. Owens and Gaines appeared to get hurt on the same play when Gaines’ helmet crashed into Owens’ knee.

Reid said running back Cyrus Gray suffered a fractured hand and is wearing a cast.

“We’ll just see how that goes,” Reid said. “Potential surgery or just leaving the cast on there, couple options there, both of which he can come back relatively quick on and be ready to go.”

Meanwhile, wide receiver Donnie Avery (groin) “feels good” after last week’s surgery.

“We’ll just see how the time goes on,” Reid said. “Normally those are six-week type injuries.”

Wide receiver A.J. Jenkins started for Avery in Week 5, and wide receiver Junior Hemingway was heavily involved.

Reid said strong safety Eric Berry (ankle) is “making progress.” Berry suffered the high ankle sprain in Week 2 against the Denver Broncos and has missed the last three games. Ron Parker has started in Berry’s place.

The Chiefs are on a bye and return to the practice field on Wednesday, Oct. 15 in preparation for Week 7’s road matchup against the San Diego Chargers.

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