KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The list of injured starting quarterbacks around the league continues to grow, now headlined by Green Bay Packers signal caller Aaron Rodgers, who went down Monday night with a fractured collarbone.
And Kansas City is no stranger to squaring off against a backup quarterback, having faced four in the last five weeks.
The Chiefs have been fortunate to keep Alex Smith healthy through nine games. But Smith has been sacked 26 times, which ties for the fifth-most in the league, and he’s a bone-crushing hit away from being lost.
Quarterback coach Matt Nagy acknowledges Smith has taken some “big hits” this season, but points out Smith’s resiliency in avoiding injury.
“Alex is tough now,” Nagy said during Tuesday’s assistant coaches media session. “That’s a big-time trait to have to be a tough quarterback. And also there’s a difference between being hurt and being injured. He hasn’t been injured so far.”
Nevertheless, Smith has been exposed when he’s out of the pocket and scrambling for yards.
While Smith has already established career highs in rushing attempts (53) and rushing yards (265), Nagy said Smith understands when to avoid defenders coming at him like heat-seeking missiles.
“He knows how to protect himself when he’s out of the pocket, which has been several times this year,” Nagy said. “He uses his feet, he knows when to get down or get out of bounds. As long as he continues to do that, we’ll be all right.”
Meanwhile, the Chiefs enter the Week 10 bye relatively healthy with only backup defensive lineman Mike Catapano dealing with a high ankle sprain.
Barry Rubin, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, said the lack of long-term injuries is attributed to the players’ hard work from offseason through training camp. Rubin adds the work of head athletic trainer Rick Burkholder and his staff do a “phenomenal job” of preventing injuries and rehabilitation.
A little luck also helps.
“It’s kind of a combination of all that and you have to have a little luck, too,” Rubin said. “It reverts back to those guys and how hard they work, consistently, how hard they work. That’s been the key so far and we just have to keep it going.”
Nevertheless, as the cliché goes, a player is one play away from being a starter.
And if Smith were to suffer an injury, the Chiefs would turn to Chase Daniel.
Nagy said having Daniel prepared every week is important in the event of that scenario.
“You see what’s going on, how physical and tough this game is at the quarterback position and getting injured,” Nagy said. “So we as a staff need to make sure we have the next guy ready to go.”
So would the Chiefs miss a lot on offense when compared to so many teams relying on backup quarterback across the league, including some of the Chiefs’ recent opponents?
The Chiefs quarterback coach didn’t appear concerned if Daniel was thrust into action.
Nagy said Daniel understands the offense and is well-prepared if the team had to turn to him.
“It makes it easier on you as a staff when you have a Chase Daniel back there,” Nagy said. “He’s a true professional and he handles himself the right way.”