[Kansas City.com] At 7 a.m. Tuesday, Chiefs coach Dick Vermeil met with his defensive coordinator to figure out what to do with the ball boy.
Shawn Barber has been more than that in the last 11 months. When a player gets hurt as badly as Barber did last year, the coaches give him an option of hanging out at practice or rehabbing on his own. Barber was there every day, shagging balls, playing practice referee – and a rather biased one at that.
But now he’s nearly back from his torn-up knee, today’s the first day Vermeil can evaluate players on the physically-unable-to-perform list, and the Chiefs aren’t exactly sure what to do. And neither is Barber.
The Chiefs have three weeks to start the clock on evaluating Barber. When that begins, they have three weeks to decide whether to activate him. It’s obvious defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham could use Barber. The Chiefs have been experimenting with a 3-4 defense, an alignment that became tougher in week two when linebacker Keyaron Fox suffered a knee injury.
But Vermeil said the biggest issue isn’t playing time. He wonders whether Barber is ready after his second major knee surgery in five years.
“He was just starting to come on when he got hurt,” Vermeil said, “and that was the eighth game of the season. He was just starting to feel comfortable in the defense and play, and he can make plays because he can flash and run and he loves to play. He’s intense. But how long will it take him to get back to that status? I don’t know.”
“Normally, it takes a full year for a guy coming off a major knee (injury) to be where he was. Normally it takes a full season of playing. I’ve only been around one guy in my career that went from a severe knee (injury) to the next year lining up and playing and you never knew he had it.”
If Barber is deemed ready, it will create an interesting situation in the linebacker rotation. Bell, who sat out most of last year in Pittsburgh because of a groin injury, has gotten off to a somewhat slow start while he’s learning a new defense.