Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel, who missed last week's loss at San Diego following an appendectomy, said he's preparing this week as if he will be starting against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday.
Neither Cassel nor the team is saying with certainty whether he will play on Sunday, as the first-place Chiefs attempt to hold off the Chargers in the AFC West race. The Chiefs will be facing a Rams team also needing a win to stay in playoff contention in the NFC West.
But Cassel said he will be ready if called upon, according to the Kansas City Star.
"That's why I'm here," Cassel said Monday at practice, according to the Star. "I'll do what I normally do. It will be a normal week of preparation. It will be a better week for me."
The Chiefs said they will have to wait a bit longer to find out if Cassel can play.
"Wednesday we'll know a lot more," Chiefs coach Todd Haley said.
Cassel didn't travel with the Chiefs to San Diego, as he was directed to stay behind in Kansas City as he recovered from the appendectomy. He watched on television as the Chiefs struggled in Sunday's 31-0 loss.
"That was more of a medical staff/coaching staff/training staff decision," Cassel said. "I would have loved to go and been on the plane, but they made the decision very clear that they wanted me to stay and rest and be off my feet as much as possible."
If the Chiefs had won at San Diego, they would have all but wrapped up their first division title since 2003. Now they have the Chargers, who are known for their December charges, looming just a game back. If the two teams tie for first, the Chargers would likely own most of the tiebreakers after the two teams split the two games during the regular season.
"It was a very disappointing result in what was our biggest game of the year," Haley said. "This [St. Louis] now becomes our game of the year. We've got to move on. We've done a good job of doing that after a win or a loss."
Despite the loss, the Chiefs remain in first place in the AFC West with a one-game lead over the Chargers with three games left, so they control their own destiny.
"Exactly, absolutely right," defensive end Wallace Gilberry said. "There were some things we could have done better [at San Diego], but we didn't, so it's on to the Rams. This is not our first road loss and we've come back and taken care of business. That's what we are banking on, to come back and get back on track, focus on the Rams."
Haley said the Chiefs would "not dwell" on the lopsided defeat at San Diego.
"Our focus is trying to become a good team," Haley said. "We're clearly not there yet. That team we played [Sunday] is in that category and has been for a number of years."
With Brodie Croyle replacing Cassel as the starting quarterback, the Chiefs had only 67 yards of offense, went 0 for 11 on third-down conversions, mustered just 19 yards passing, punted eight times and had the ball for only 19:50.
Haley, however, wouldn't put the entire blame on Croyle's shoulders, calling it "a complete team loss."
"From start to finish it was a team loss," Haley said. "Offensively, we never could get anything positive going. It's an 11-man operation. I want to be clear on that. Defensively, we were unable to stop San Diego. We could not stop the run. Our goal was to make them one-dimensional."
The Chiefs are 0-10 when they start Croyle, a 2006 third-round pick out of Alabama. It was his first start since Sept. 13, 2009, at Baltimore when Cassel was injured.
Would Cassel have made a huge impact on the game at San Diego if he was healthy enough to play?
"I really can't answer that," Haley said. 'I don't know what would have made a difference [Sunday]."
Haley said he has confidence in Croyle to lead the Chiefs to a victory if Cassel is unable to play again.
"He's disappointed," Haley said. "He wanted to do better."
Croyle got little help from his offensive line. He was sacked four times for losses of 29 yards and seldom had time to throw. He completed seven of 17 passes, the longest being 16 yards to Terrance Copper in the first half.
"This is a new week and a new team," Haley said. "I thought we had a good week of practice last week, but it didn't carry over."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.