KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs expect to have wide receiver Mecole Hardman on the field for the first time in nearly two months on Sunday when they play the Denver Broncos in the penultimate game of the regular season.
Hardman has been out since Nov. 6 with an abdominal injury that landed him on injured reserve. He returned to practice a couple of weeks ago, but the ailment caused the already lean Hardman to lose weight he’s had to put back on. The time off also diminished the endurance.
“As the week went on,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said of last week, “he got a bit tired and sore, and I think that was good. He worked his way through what he needed to get through, and now it’s a matter of getting him through a game.
“I presume,” Reid said, “unless there’s a setback that he’ll be there.”
The Chiefs have overcome his loss by deploying their deep wide receiver group in different ways. The return of Kadarius Toney from a hamstring injury a couple of weeks ago has bought Hardman some additional time to recover.
Few players on the roster can match Hardman’s speed, making him a unique downfield threat and very effective on jet sweeps. Hardman reached the end zone six times in the four games before he got hurt, three of them on touchdown passes and the other three on various rushing attempts.
“I think getting Mecole and KT back will just add another dimension,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. “I mean, they can do the jet sweeps and stuff like that, but just adding that speed to the field makes teams have to honor it.”
It’s not as if the Chiefs, who are 12-3 and tied with Buffalo for the best record in the AFC, have struggled without Hardman. Their offense leads the league in yards per game and trails only the Eagles in scoring.
“Marquez (Valdes-Scantling) has done a great job of filling that role and so has Skyy (Moore),” Mahomes said, noting the addition of Hardman and Toney will open things up for other players.
The Chiefs are among the league’s healthiest teams as January approaches, getting tight end Blake Bell back for the first time last week. The AFC West champions’ only notable absences are running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who remains on injured reserve with a high-ankle sprain, and tight end Jody Fortson, who is on IR with an elbow injury.
“(Edwards-Helaire is not ready yet. He’s close but not ready,” Reid said. “High-ankle sprains, those are tough deals on running backs. He’s working through everything. He’s busting his tail there.”
Reid said both have a chance to play in the postseason.
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Dave Skretta, The Associated Press