KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- If anyone knows the demands of being a workhorse NFL running back, it's someone who's been in that spot. Eric Bieniemy never put in the workload during his nine-year career that Jamaal Charles has recently put in, but as a former running back Bieniemy can still appreciate the difficulty Charles faces in doing again in 2014 what he did last year. Charles is No. 11 in the 2014 #NFLRank survey of offensive players.
"The hardest part about being a professional is being a consistent professional," said Bieniemy, who as the Kansas City Chiefs' running backs coach now works with Charles. "Everybody knows Jamaal is a great player, [but] it's going to be a huge challenge for him. The thing that I love about Jamaal is that he doesn't take anything for granted."
It will help Charles that, by all accounts, he worked as hard during the offseason as he did when he was a rookie with the Chiefs. But his recent workload -- 544 carries and 105 catches combined in the past two seasons -- has to take its toll.
If the prevailing theory holds that an NFL back only has so much work in him before his skills start to erode, Charles will have trouble getting to his 2013 numbers of 1,287 yards rushing, 70 pass receptions and 19 total touchdowns.
"I don't believe that," Charles said when asked about that theory. "I think those are just numbers."
That may be. Charles is only 27 and his big 2013 season followed a solid 2012 (1,509 yards rushing, 35 pass receptions, 6 touchdowns). Charles also believes that playing in coach Andy Reid's offense saves him wear and tear.
"[Reid's offense] puts me in space where I can catch the ball out of the backfield and make a move, make somebody miss," Charles said. "He wasn't always trying to get somebody to get a big hit on me."
The Chiefs have talked about trying to lessen Charles' load. They drafted running back Knile Davis in 2013 and another, De'Anthony Thomas, this year. But Charles is their best player, their big-game threat, and they'll go to him often in a close game.
"You have a player who wants the football," Reid said. "He loves playing the game, and you have a coach who kind of likes giving it to him."