AFC West: Frank Zombo

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Some quick observations on the Kansas City Chiefs' first full-squad offseason practice:
  • The Chiefs went with veteran Frank Zombo instead of rookie Dee Ford in place of the absent Justin Houston as one of the starters at outside linebacker. Zombo started five games in place of the injured Houston last season and had two sacks and one interception. Marcus Cooper, the Chiefs' rookie of the year last season, started in place of Brandon Flowers at one of the cornerback spots. Houston and Flowers were missing from practice, which is voluntary. The only period during the offseason program with mandatory participation is the minicamp June 17-19.
  • The other new starters on defense were Allen Bailey (for the departed Tyson Jackson) at end, Joe Mays (for the departed Akeem Jordan) at linebacker and Husain Abdullah (for the departed Kendrick Lewis) at free safety.
  • Left tackle Eric Fisher didn't participate in the team portion of practice and tight end Travis Kelce didn't participate at all. Fisher had offseason surgeries to repair a balky shoulder and for a sports hernia and participated in individual drills. Right tackle Donald Stephenson moved into Fisher's spot with Jeff Linkenbach starting in Stephenson's usual place. Kelce, who missed all of his rookie season because of a knee ailment, is not a starter but the Chiefs are hopeful he can play a lot and be a productive receiver .
  • Sanders Commings is for now at least Abdullah's backup. But he showed free safety skills when he covered a lot of ground to intercept a Tyler Bray pass along the sideline.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs remained hopeful that outside linebacker Tamba Hali, who has had swelling in his knee, would be available for Saturday's wild-card game against the Colts in Indianapolis (4:35 p.m. ET, NBC). Hali was listed as questionable, meaning he has a 50-50 chance of playing, on the Chiefs' injury report.

Hali didn't play in last week's game in San Diego nor did he practice this week. The Chargers' game was only the second of his career that Hali has missed because of injury, the other happening in 2008.

The Chiefs are still hoping to pair Hali with outside linebacker Justin Houston, who on Saturday will play for the first time in six weeks. Houston dislocated his elbow in a Nov. 24 game against the Chargers. Both players had 11 sacks this season.

If Hali can't play, he would be replaced by veteran Frank Zombo. Zombo did a nice job of filling in for Houston. Zombo had two sacks and an interception in five starts.

The Chiefs will play against the Colts without rookie right tackle Eric Fisher, the first pick in this year's draft. Fisher injured his groin in practice this week and was listed as out for the game on the injury report.

He will be replaced by Donald Stephenson, who started three games for Fisher this season and four for Branden Albert at left tackle. Albert missed the last four games with a hyperextended knee and will play on Saturday for the first time since the injury.

Hali says he will be at full strength

November, 29, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- From the despair of last Sunday, when he thought his absence from the Kansas City Chiefs' lineup might be an extended one, linebacker Tamba Hali said he would be at full strength for this weekend's game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium.

"I'll be 100 percent," he said after Friday's practice. "I don't like to say 100 percent but I've tested it out to where I can do what I like doing. The hardest thing about playing our position is rushing inside with a sore ankle. You don't want to go in there because you don't want to plant it. I'm able to do that. That's allowing me to cut and change direction and sprint. I should be fine."

Hali will be listed as 50-50 to play against the Broncos when the Chiefs issue their final injury report of the week later Friday.

The Chiefs also officially ruled their other top pass-rusher, Justin Houston, out of Sunday's game. Houston dislocated his elbow in last week's loss to the San Diego Chargers.

Houston's MRI of the damaged elbow was pushed back to Wednesday this week because of swelling in the joint.

"The MRI revealed what we thought it would reveal and that is that he's got some ligament damage in his elbow and he's got some muscle damage in his elbow, which is normal for a dislocation," trainer Rick Burkholder said. "He's going through the process right now of trying to get his range of motion, tring to get his welling down. He's in a brace.

He's truly week to week. He won't play this week. Well take this weekend and treat him and rehab him and Monday we'll regroup as a staff and see where he's at."

Houston will be replaced in the starting lineup Sunday by veteran Frank Zombo. A former starter for the Green Bay Packers, Zombo showed good pass rush skills this year in preseason games.

Chiefs' best-case scenario realized

November, 29, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- It was difficult not to think dark thoughts last Sunday about what remains for the Kansas City Chiefs' season. Their 9-2 record has been built on pressuring the opposing quarterback, but one of their top pass-rushers was taken off the field on the back of a motorized cart while another walked off under his own power, but in obvious pain with some sort of arm injury.

Now that things have started to sort themselves out, the Chiefs might have come away as fortunate as they could have hoped. Tamba Hali has only a sprained ankle, and his progress in recovery looks as if it will allow him to play in Sunday's game against the Denver Broncos at Arrowhead Stadium.

Justin Houston won't play on Sunday, but his injured elbow will not require surgery. That's good news for the Chiefs. He should return at some point later this season, whether it's one, two or three weeks down the road.

In the short-term, these injuries could cause the Chiefs some problems, and perhaps even the AFC West championship. Hali should play Sunday, but probably at something less than peak effectiveness. Houston will be replaced by Frank Zombo, a veteran who is a great backup, but doesn't have Houston's skills.

In the longer term, these injuries don't have to ruin Kansas City's season. That's all the Chiefs could have hoped for just a few days ago.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Frank Zombo would be the first to tell you he’s no Justin Houston. But Zombo has pass-rush skills, and he was once a part-time starter for a Super Bowl-winning team.

The Kansas City Chiefs may well have to put those credentials to work on Sunday against the Oakland Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium. Houston, an outside linebacker and the Chiefs' top pass-rusher, has shown concussion symptoms after being hit in the head and neck area in last week’s game in Tennessee.

Houston returned to practice Thursday on a limited basis but had yet to be cleared to play in the game. If he’s not, Zombo would play.

“He’s a versatile guy,’’ defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said. “He’s pretty smooth in coverage. We feel like he can go in there and play and we’ll be OK in that regard. We’re not doing anything less if he walks out there. We’re very comfortable with him.’’

Zombo, signed as a free agent during the offseason, showed the Chiefs some pass-rush skills in the preseason. He has so far played mainly on special teams during the regular season, but he had four sacks as a rookie and part-time starter for Green Bay in 2010, when the Packers won the Super Bowl.

The Packers eventually gave up on Zombo after two more seasons, both filled with injuries. New Chiefs general manager John Dorsey, formerly the college scouting director for the Packers, was familiar with Zombo and signed him to be a backup.

He may have to start against the Raiders, and, if so, he said the situation will be familiar.

"When you play the other side of Tamba Hali, it’s definitely going to be nice," Zombo said. "I was used to that playing in Green Bay, playing the opposite side of Clay Matthews."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Four starters are listed as questionable on the Kansas City Chiefs injury report for Sunday's game against the New York Giants. Cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee), free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle), guard Jeff Allen (groin) and tight end Anthony Fasano (ankle) are the players listed as questionable.

Flowers played on a sore knee in last week's game in Philadelphia, but aggravated the injury in the game. He practiced on a limited basis Thursday but did not practice on Friday. Lewis, Allen and Fasano were listed as being limited practice participants Friday.

Backup tight end Travis Kelce (knee) did not practice and will not play against the Giants.

Listed as probable for the Giants game and full practice participants on Friday were three starters: tackle Branden Albert (shoulder), defensive end Mike DeVito (neck) and fullback Anthony Sherman (knee). Backup linebacker Frank Zombo was also listed as probable for the game after participating fully in practice.

Thursday's Chiefs practice report

September, 26, 2013
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Starting cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee) and free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle) returned to practice for the Kansas City Chiefs, though on a limited basis. The Chiefs also listed on their injury report two other starters, offensive tackle Branden Albert (shoulder) and defensive end Mike DeVito (neck), as being limited practice participants.

Otherwise, their injury report remained the same. Two starters, tight end Anthony Fasano (ankle) and guard Jeff Allen (groin) did not practice, increasing the likelihood they won't be available for Sunday's game against the New York Giants at Arrowhead Stadium. Backup tight end Travis Kelce (knee) also did not practice.

The other two players on the injury report, fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) and linebacker Frank Zombo (elbow), were listed as full practice participants.

Wednesday's Chiefs practice report

September, 25, 2013
KANSAS CITY , Mo. -- The practice week began in earnest for the Kansas City Chiefs with five players, including four starters, not working. Cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee), free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle), guard Jeff Allen (groin) and tight end Anthony Fasano (ankle) were the starters who did not practice.

Dunta Robinson was starting in Flowers' spot. Quintin Demps filled in for Lewis, Geoff Schwartz for Allen and Sean McGrath for Fasano.

The fifth player who did not practice was backup tight end Travis Kelce (knee).

Two other starters, tackle Branden Albert (shoulder) and defensive end Mike DeVito, were listed on the injury report as being limited practice participants. Fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) and linebacker Frank Zombo (elbow) were listed as full participants.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Some observations at halftime from Arrowhead Stadium, where the Kansas City Chiefs lead the Green Bay Packers 13-6 in Thursday's preseason finale:
  • Chase Daniel didn't inspire much confidence during training camp, and he finished the exhibition season on a down note. Daniel started at quarterback in place of Alex Smith, who, like the other starters, didn't play. Daniel forced a throw into coverage on the first offensive play of the game and the pass was intercepted. Daniel later took a sack on a second-and-2 play from the Green Bay 6. He had plenty of time to unload the ball but instead took an eight-yard loss, and the Chiefs had to settle for a field goal.
  • Linebacker Frank Zombo is proving to be a nice free-agent signing. Because Pro Bowler Tamba Hali and Justin Houston are the starters at outside linebacker, Zombo is no threat to break into the lineup. But based on the way he's played in preseason, the Chiefs have reason to feel good about Zombo if he has to play. He had an interception and 27-yard return to set up a field goal. In earlier games, Zombo showed good pass-rush skills and the ability to get pressure on the quarterback.
  • A knee injury that knocked Travis Kelce from the game will force the Chiefs to look for a tight end before the regular season begins. Kansas City already lost Tony Moeaki for an extended period with a shoulder injury.

Chiefs, Chargers add depth

April, 3, 2013
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the Kansas City Chiefs will sign former Green Bay linebacker Frank Zombo. He is a special teamer and backup. He was in Green Bay with new Kansas City general manager John Dorsey.

The Chargers signed former Tennessee and Green Bay defensive end Jarius Wynn. He is a backup who could provide some pass-rushing depth.

Carolina signed Giants free agent receiver Domenik Hixon to a one-year deal. He recently visited the Raiders. He would have been a rotational receiver and a return option in case Jacoby Ford has trouble coming back from a foot injury that cost him last season.

The Oakland Tribune offers a transcript of a conference call with new Oakland Raiders cornerback Tracy Porter.

In an Insider piece, Matt Bowen thinks the Chiefs’ trade for Alex Smith was one of the biggest impact moves in the NFL this offseason.