ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs indicated early in the offseason that with no setbacks, Jamaal Charles would be ready to participate when training camp started. Charles returned to practice on a limited basis late in the offseason, and even last week on his blog wrote "everything is going according to schedule" with regard to his rehab from a torn ACL.
That's why news that Charles won't be practicing on Saturday when the Chiefs begin full squad camp was surprising. Everything had been building for the return of the Chiefs' best offensive player, a boost Kansas City badly needs.
That is on hold indefinitely, though coach Andy Reid sounded as if he expected Charles to be practicing sooner rather than later. Either way, the Chiefs will start the process of trying to top their success of last season without a most important piece.
The Chiefs did a masterful job of disguising this fact last year, when they won 10 straight games in the regular season and another in the playoffs without Charles. But they are a better team with him in their lineup than without.
Spencer Ware and Charcandrick West did an admirable job of filling in for Charles. Neither is a playmaker in the Charles mold. Neither poses a particular problem for opposing defensive coordinators in the manner that Charles does.
The Chiefs, with Justin Houston's knee rehab, Eric Berry's contract situation and Sean Smith's offseason defection, have their share of defensive issues. The Chiefs aren't talking about this publicly, but they don't expect their defense to be as strong as it was last season, at least not early in the year.
So they'll need a lift from their offense and Charles is the likeliest of sources for that increased production.
"He's on track," said Reid, who sounded confident the wait for Charles to return wouldn't be a long one. "He's played a lot of downs. He knows what he needs to do to be ready. I think we'll be fine there. The important thing is that we're patient with him and that when he's ready to go he's back and can do what he does."
That indeed is the most important thing for the Chiefs. It might still happen but this delay, unforeseen for most of the offseason, is not the way the Chiefs believed that process would get started.