One year, one month and 26 days after tearing his MCL and PCL, Spencer Ware is finally starting to feel like himself again.
The 26-year old running back heads into Sunday’s game against the Broncos (3-4) coming off his best performance since that catastrophic knee injury in 2017. And although his eight rushes for 59 yards and three catches for 30 yards versus the Bengals is a far cry from the days when he rushed for 921 yards and started 14 games in 2016, Ware is doing exactly what he needs to do to be an effective contributor for the Chiefs (6-1).
“The game that we’re in, we know it’s a kids’ game,” Ware said. “It’s going to come to an end some day. We don’t know when. We try to be the deciding factor on that. We all know that injuries happen. But you’ve just got to keep pushing.”
After missing last season, Ware returns to a position group that’s transformed in his absence. He ceded the featured back role to Kareem Hunt, and now acts as the Chiefs’ change-of-pace runner. He gives the Chiefs’ already high-powered offense more dimension, and he gives Hunt a chance to catch his breath.
“He adds a toughness,” offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy said. “He’s just a tough, tremendous warrior. … But on top of that, with him playing, obviously it gives us an opportunity to (rest) Kareem, which keeps Kareem fresh throughout the course of the game. I think that helps out tremendously.
“Now we’re seeing the benefits of having a fresher Kareem down the line, late in the game because obviously, the things he’s doing late in the game are having an impact on the outcome.”
Ware admits he was a little fatigued after the Chiefs’ win Sunday night. Not because he’s not in shape, but because he’s still trying to get back in the groove of the game.
“That type of work,” Ware said, “just putting in that force into the ground, repetitive basis, throughout the game for that length of time, could wear you out a little bit, fatigue you out in the lower area, especially coming off this injury.”
But that feeling isn’t a bad thing.
“Those legs got heavy,” coach Andy Reid said. “He was tired. He hadn’t had to push himself past that wall. You can go run the hill and go do all those things these guys do. Until you’re getting banged on a little bit, then you have to get back in, collect your breath and thoughts and then get out there and go again, he hasn’t really had to do that. I thought this was a big game for him working through that.”
This time a year ago, Ware was early in his recovery from the knee injury suffered in Week 3 of the preseason. There were concerns that he might not ever play football again, but 11 months after the injury — and a couple months ahead of schedule — Ware was able to participate in the Chiefs’ training camp.
That was one major milestone in his road back. The next came as he learned he made the roster over Labor Day Weekend. Later, he hit another when he was activated for Week 1.
And now, he’s hitting even more with every snap he takes, and that’s a good thing for the Chiefs.
“This offense is already exciting minus me,” Ware said. “But when you add me to the element, it’s just going to get more scary and scarier as the year goes on.”