KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Charcandrick West spent much of his offseason working out in Texas, hoping his effort would be enough to help him make it with the Kansas City Chiefs.
It has to be more than that now. It has to be good enough to help the Chiefs climb from the crater they created for themselves with a 1-4 start.
That’s a lot to ask of West, who joined the Chiefs last year as an undrafted rookie from Abilene Christian and spent most of the season on the practice squad. But he’s next in line as featured back for the Chiefs, who lost Jamaal Charles with a torn ACL in his right knee in the Chiefs' 18-17 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday at Arrowhead Stadium.
Immediately, the Chiefs seemed intimidated by the mere thought of replacing Charles, their offensive engine since he returned from a torn ACL in his left knee, which cost him most of the 2011 season.
Since his return, Charles accounted for 30.9 percent of his team’s yards from scrimmage -- second in the league to Chicago’s Matt Forte.
“With the type of player that he is, he’s involved in so much -- always on the field," quarterback Alex Smith said. “You know he is not in and not available -- that weapon, that matchup is not there. From that perspective, you’re very aware.”
The play of the Chiefs after Charles left the game in the third quarter would seem to indicate they are intimidated. The Chiefs led 17-3 and had a first-and-goal from the Chicago 9 on the play on which Charles was injured.
After that, the Chiefs were shut out. They had a field goal blocked on the drive in which Charles suffered his injury. They gained two first downs after his departure, which killed any momentum they had.
“I certainly would agree with you there," Smith said. “I feel like we came out the second half and were rolling, marched right down the field, got inside the 10.
“You know, from there, production quit. I don’t know if that [Charles' injury] was it or what. Offensively, we went into a shell there for a little while and just didn’t get anything done. Had some decent field position, really had a chance to really put that game away with some first downs and just three and out, three and out. It didn’t help the defense at all.”
West had seven carries for 31 yards, most of them after Charles left the game.
He earned the roster spot he coveted with strong play in the preseason and training camp. He showed a knack as a receiver to find holes in coverage, and he often gained a lot of yards after making the catch.
He so impressed Andy Reid and the Chiefs’ coaches that he passed Knile Davis as Charles’ top backup.
“Absolutely, without a question," Smith said when asked if West’s offseason work brought him back to the Chiefs an improved player. “I think just the maturing, the growing up, knowing the offense and all of the little things of being a running back. There are a lot of things that go into that. You’ve got to know the running game, you’ve got to know the pass game and you’ve got to know protection, so a lot on young running backs’ plates. It takes time.”
Reid indicated the Chiefs might utilize Davis as well to help fill the considerable void left by Charles’ absence. But unless the Chiefs unexpectedly move in a completely different direction, West’s time is now.
“I’m just going to step up and do my part," he said. “Whatever they call on me to do, I’m going to be there. It’s heartbreaking to see one of my friends go down, my brother go down. Whatever the team needs me to do, I’m going to be ready to do that.”