The Chiefs as expected returned running back C.J. Spiller to the active roster Sunday afternoon but the more stunning development came from how the team cleared room for the veteran back, placing starting cornerback Steven Nelson on injured reserve.
Head coach Andy Reid hinted at a long-term issue with Nelson during his press conference Sunday but gave no signal the club planned to shut down Nelson for the time being.
“We’ll take it day-by-day,” Reid said. “We’ll just see.”
Nelson suffered a groin injury during training camp. The issue kept him out of practice and preseason games sporadically during the last month.
The move means Nelson can be designated to return later in the season. He can begin practicing with the team as early as week six. He can return to the active roster as early as week eight.
Nelson’s injury throws a wrench into the club’s plans for its defensive secondary. Nelson spent the entire offseason preparing to start at right cornerback. He moves to the slot with cornerbacks Terrance Mitchell and Phillip Gaines coming in for nickel and dime substitution packages.
The team must shuffle its lineup now, with Mitchell or Gaines likely starting at right corner. Gaines appears the more probable candidate to move to the slot in substitution packages. Kenneth Acker and D.J. White round out the team’s depth at cornerback.
Spiller’s return came as much more predictable and routine. Nelson’s injury also sheds more light on the roster shuffle with the veteran running back.
Players designated for return later in the season must appear on the 53-man roster before placed on injured reserve. If Nelson went straight to injured reserve from the 90-man training camp roster, he would be ineligible to return later in the season.
General manager Brett Veach said he spoke to Spiller before the team released him ahead of the league’s mandated cut down to 53 players by 3 p.m. Saturday.
“So there’s a possibility C.J. may end up on our roster,” Veach said following the deadline. “Again, we’ve had that conversation, and we’ll continue to monitor the situation around the league and what’s out there and what’s available. And there’s likely scenario where C.J. Is on our team.”
Spiller’s return means the Chiefs have three running backs available for Thursday night’s season opener at the New England Patriots. Rookie running back Kareem Hunt expects to draw the start with Spiller and Charcandrick West as backups.