ST. JOSEPH, Mo. — Chiefs coach Andy Reid had very little to say about missing All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones on Monday.
What he did say carried some weight.
Jones, who is entering the final year of his four-year, $80 million contract, skipped the entirety of the Chiefs’ offseason program and has so far held out all of training camp while trying to secure a new long-term deal.
And with their first preseason game now less than a week away, Reid indicated that even superstars such as Jones are missing something by missing camp.
“I don’t know when he’ll be here,” Reid said after Monday’s padded practice on the campus of Missouri Western State University, “but I will tell you that any work he can get is important. It’s a fast game.”
Jones could conceivably hold out the entire preseason, or even the regular season, though it’s unclear what he would gain by that decision. He was evidently fine with relatively modest fines for missing the Chiefs’ mandatory minicamp, and appears to be willing to part with $50,000 daily fines for each day he misses in training camp.
But under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, the fines increase substantially to an entire game check — about $1.1 million in Jones’ case — for each preseason and regular-season game that he is absent.
The Chiefs are likewise in a bind without Jones on the field.
He was easily their most disruptive pass rusher last season, piling up 15 1/2 sacks and then dominating throughout their playoff run to the Lombardi Trophy.
And that was with Frank Clark, who was released to free up some salary cap space, and fellow pass rusher Carlos Dunlop sharing the field and taking some of the attention away from him.
The Chiefs signed Charles Omenihu to help replace the veteran duo, but he was recently suspended for the first six games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy; he was arrested in January, when Omenihu was a member of the 49ers, and accused by a woman claiming to be his girlfriend of domestic violence.
Reid said the Chiefs were expecting a suspension and “we’ll work through it.” But that means relying more heavily on second-year pro George Karlaftis, who had six sacks as a rookie, and first-round draft pick Felix Anudike-Uzomah to rush the passer.
“They’ve handled it well,” said Reid, who had not yet decided how much starters and backups will play on Sunday in New Orleans. “We’ll see how it works out during the preseason and who steps up. We know we have bodies, though.”
The Chiefs did get some positive news along the defensive line Monday when Turk Wharton, who had been rehabbing after surgery to repair a torn ACL, worked into some of the padded team periods for the first time in camp.
“I’m just preparing to get back fully healthy,” Wharton said, “and continue to take my strides so I can play.”