Recently, shortly before he was named the Kansas City Chiefs' Most Valuable Player for the fourth time in five seasons, Jamaal Charles sent a message on his Twitter account that left no doubt he is preparing for more.
"I miss coming out the tunnel," Charles wrote, referring to the Chiefs' path to the playing field at Arrowhead Stadium. "So ready for next season."
Charles looked ready for the season as he accepted his award at a Kansas City hotel. He sounded mainly as if he would be just killing time before the Chiefs gather again in April for the start of their offseason program.
"It hurt me not playing that last game of the season," Charles said, referring to the concussion that forced him out in the first quarter of the playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts. "I'm so excited to be able to get back. I can't wait to run down that tunnel one more time. Just having a coach like Andy Reid helping me out, advancing my career as a player and putting me in great positions ... I never thought I could score as many touchdowns as I did last year."
Charles led the NFL with 19 total touchdowns, three more than the next highest player. The Chiefs relied on him like never before and he responded by leading them in not only rushing but receiving, as well.
That he proclaimed himself ready in March for another big workload is encouraging for the Chiefs, but how much can Charles have left? He won't turn 28 until late December but will be heading into his seventh season in 2014. At 200 pounds, he doesn't appear built for such a heavy workload year in and year out.
Charles isn't concerned about his own football mortality, though no player ever is until the end is upon him. He also said he felt playing in Reid's offense will extend his career.
"[Reid's offense] puts me in space where I can catch the ball out of the backfield and make a move, make somebody miss," said Charles, who sometime early next season should pass Priest Holmes as the Chiefs' all-time leading rusher. "He wasn't always trying to get somebody to get a big hit on me.
"I have at least five [more] years in me. I'll know when my time is up. I'm 27 years old. Probably when I'm 32 I'll just want to look back to see what I've done. I'm having a great career so far and putting up great numbers. As long as I continue to do those things in my five years, it would be amazing. I'd look back and call it quits."
To the extent they can be, the Chiefs are concerned about the end coming for Charles sooner rather than later. Kansas City drafted Knile Davis in the third round last year. He's a raw prospect, and the Chiefs knew they could give him some time to develop.
Davis' rookie season was uneven. It began with him running the wrong plays and frequently fumbling. It ended with Davis having made significant improvement and earning more of Reid's trust. But then Davis broke his leg in the playoff game.
The Chiefs believe Davis will be ready for full duty when next season begins and Reid indicated he plans to use Davis more and Charles less.
The dilemma? While Davis, who at 227 pounds is much bigger than Charles and perhaps just as fast, is a big-play threat, he's not yet in Charles' class in that regard. Every time Reid removes Charles from the lineup, he will wonder whether that was the play on which Charles would have taken the ball the distance.
"That's what you have to weigh as a coach," Reid said. "You have to make sure you give him enough opportunities where he can show his greatness but at the same time make sure that he makes it all the way through the season and the championship game and the Super Bowl."
It's a difficult line for a coach to draw, the one between preserving a very important asset and trying to win a game. Many times, particularly when a team is in a close game, the future can wait.
"You have a player who wants the football," Reid said of Charles. "He loves playing the game, and you have a coach who kind of likes giving it to him."