The Chiefs have four defensive backs on their injury report, highlighted by safety Eric Berry. Berry worked for the first two practice days of the week, sparking hope he could play on Sunday for the first time since suffering a high ankle sprain a month ago in a game against the Broncos in Denver.
But Berry was not present for the early portion of Thursday’s practice, an ominous sign for his chances of playing in San Diego.
Also absent from practice again was nickelback Chris Owens, who has a sore knee. He is unlikely to be available in San Diego.
The other defensive backs on the injury report, cornerbacks Sean Smith (groin) and Phillip Gaines (concussion) were practicing and are likely to play on Sunday. Still, with Berry and Owens at best iffy for Sunday, the Chiefs could have trouble coming up with a game plan that accounts for the NFL’s highest-rated quarterback, San Diego’s Philip Rivers, and a bunch of productive receivers.
"We're going to let this thing play out," defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. "We’d love everybody to be out there. That would be our dream set up. Right now we’ve got a chance of that happening. That for us is exciting.
"We’re just trying to move guys around and be ready. We actually have, potentially, more pieces than we had before. You never know. We could have less."
Sutton wouldn’t disclose who would replace Owens as the nickelback but the options are few. Ron Parker might normally figure prominently in the plans, but he’s been playing in Berry’s place at safety. The Chiefs could shift Parker to nickel in passing situations and use veteran backup Kurt Coleman at safety.
With a healthy secondary, the Chiefs might have had difficulty containing Rivers and covering receivers like Keenan Allen, Antonio Gates, Eddie Royal, Malcom Floyd, Branden Oliver and Ladarius Green. But the secondary probably won’t be complete and the job is suddenly looking even more difficult.