Notebook: Chiefs’ Jamaal Charles targets training camp for return

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles is coming along well in his rehabilitation from an October 2015 surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

Sept. 17, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) turns up the field against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium. (Chris Neal/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

Sept. 17, 2015; Kansas City, MO; Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles (25) turns up the field against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium. (Chris Neal/The Topeka Capital-Journal)

“I’m in the stage (where I’m) back running right now,” Charles said Monday, the first day of the Chiefs’ voluntary offseason workout program. “Basically just trying to get my right leg caught up to my left leg and get that strength back into it. Hopefully I can be cutting coming up soon.”

While Charles concedes he won’t be ready to participate in organized team activities (OTAs), which begin on May 24, the original timeline the Chiefs targeted surrounded the start of training camp in late July.

The star running back appeared optimistic he is on schedule to meet that expectation.

“Yeah, I’ll be ready, hopefully I’ll be ready,” Charles said. “I’m not going to tell you when, I’m not God, I can’t tell you this. In my time, I can’t wait. I’m very fortunate to still be able to walk and now I’m running, so I’m very fortunate to look forward to what I’ll be able to do when that time comes.”

With Charles out of the lineup for the stretch run to the postseason, the Chiefs went with a two-back rotation between Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware.

The ground attack didn’t falter and finished the regular season ranked sixth in the league, averaging 127.8 yards rushing per game.

The Chiefs recently signed West and Ware to two-year extensions and Charles couldn’t be happier.

“I’m just excited they could sign West and Ware and still have Knile (Davis) here,” Charles said. “That’s something blessed to be a part of. That group of guys, they all want to be successful and I’m happy and I want all of them to be successful, too.

Ultimately, a healthy Charles will command the touches and he brings the dynamic ability to go the distance on any given touch.

And with Charles on track to be back in the fold, the Chiefs are set to unleash arguably one of the top backfields in the league.

“Having a backfield like that, I don’t think any other team in the NFL has a running back group like that,” Charles said. “If either one of us goes down, we know one of the guys out of that group is very fortunate coming in and stepping up.”

GAINES ON TRACK

Cornerback Phillip Gaines also returns from a torn ACL and is confident in his rehabilitation, much like Jamaal Charles.

“I’d say I’m running full speed right now,” Gaines said. “I can always get stronger and faster. In my mind, I’m running full speed. I’m cutting pretty well, it’s just a matter of reps and getting back out there, getting the feel of it and getting my wind back.”

Gaines, however, didn’t have a specific schedule for his return to the practice field.

“There’s really no timetable right now,” he said. “What they want to do with me is, like I said, is get out there, get reps and see where I’m at.”

The Chiefs will need a healthy Gaines when considering Sean Smith signed a free-agent deal with the Oakland Raiders, a transaction that left the Chiefs with a young core group consisting of Gaines, Marcus Peters, Steven Nelson and Marcus Peters.

Smith’s departure leaves a void in veteran experience and leadership, of course.

But Gaines indicates he and his cornerback teammates are prepared to move forward despite the absence of a player who played a role in their development.

“Last year, we knew that could happen,” Gaines said. “Sean wanted to be here and things didn’t work out that way. A lot of people on the outside looking in, like Sean went to the Raiders and he’s a bad guy.

“But Sean from Day One helped me, Marcus and Steve. That’s hard for a vet corner, three corners drafted right behind him and he never didn’t tell us anything, he told us everything. He’s a true professional, he’s a good guy, a good friend and I still talk to Sean to this day, so props to him.”

BERRY, HOUSTON ABSENT

Chiefs safety Eric Berry and outside linebacker Justin Houston were not present at the team’s training facility for the start of the offseason workout program, according to a team spokesman.

Berry, whom Kansas City designated as its franchise player, hasn’t signed his franchise tender and participation in the offseason workout program isn’t mandatory.

Houston, who underwent an ACL procedure to his left knee in February, has been in Kansas City rehabilitating and there are concerns he may not be ready for the regular season.

But Houston’s absence didn’t alarm outside linebacker Tamba Hali, who expressed hope Houston will be back on the playing field.

“Coach will always want to focus on the guys that are here,” Hali said, “but we hope for Justin to be here.”

The only portion of the offseason workout program when attendance is mandatory is the three-day minicamp on June 14-16.

SORENSEN, WILLIAMS SIGN TENDERS

Safety Daniel Sorensen signed his exclusive-rights free agent tender Monday and was present for the start of the offseason workout program, a source familiar with the transaction informed The Topeka Capital-Journal and ChiefsDigest.com.

Defensive lineman Nick Williams also signed his EFRA tender, according to Monday’s NFL Transactions report.

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Herbie Teope is the lead Chiefs beat writer for The Topeka Capital-Journal and ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @HerbieTeope.

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