KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs cornerback Phillip Gaines returned to practice Thursday, providing optimism the team may have one of its key secondary defenders against the high-powered New Orleans Saints passing attack visiting Arrowhead Stadium Sunday.
Gaines left the team’s week six game against Oakland after developing inflammation in his surgically repaired left knee. It’s the latest temporary setback for Gaines, who also tweaked the knee in week three against the New York Jets and leading him to sit out the game against Pittsburgh.
Hali also returned to practice as part of his regular rotation. The veteran linebacker typically practices once a week, usually on Thursdays.
The Chiefs also continued to prepare game planning without two defensive starters. The team placed defensive lineman Allen Bailey and linebacker Justin March-Lillard on injured reserve earlier this week.
Rookie Chris Jones likely picks up most of the slack left in the absence of Bailey. The team also promoted Rakeem Nunez-Roches from the practice squad, who expects to rotate with Jones.
Linebacker Derrick Johnson indicated Sam Barrington may draw the first opportunity to fill March-Lillard’s right inside role.
“You got Sam that’s stepping for Justin March,” Johnson said. “You got Ramik Wilson who’s played right, so he’ll be ready to go at that position too.”
Thursday’s practice also marked the second day of work for All-Pro outside linebacker Justin Houston. Johnson said the veteran looked good in his return to the field.
“He looked better than I thought he would,” Johnson said. “I thought he’d be limping just a little bit, but there was no limp to him. Of course he hasn’t banged up against anybody yet, so that remains to be seen.”
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said Houston did limit work Wednesday during individual drills and some scout team work.
“Hopefully, he’s getting closer and closer to returning,” Sutton said. “We’ve got to be patient, and smart and see where he’s at.”
Thursday’s injury report as released by the Chiefs:
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Did not participate in practice: CB Delvin Breaux (fibula), DT Nick Fairley (not injury related), DE Paul Kruger (back), CB Sterling Moore (abdomen), and T Andrus Peat (groin)
Limited participation: T Terron Armstead (knee) and LB Dannell Ellerbe (quad)
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Did not participate in practice: None
Limited participation: CB Phillip Gaines (knee) and LB Tamba Hali (knee)
Full participation: T Mitchell Schwartz (ankle), CB Kenneth Acker (shoulder) and OL Jordan Devey (ankle)