KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The news of Justin Houston's recent ACL surgery explains a lot of the Kansas City Chiefs' recent moves. It explains why the Chiefs were so determined to re-sign their other Pro Bowl outside linebacker, Tamba Hali, despite the fact he will turn 33 in November and spent the past two years bothered by ailing knees. It explains why the Chiefs made the re-signing of veteran backup Frank Zombo such a priority.
It doesn't explain why it took two months from Houston's knee injury, in a Nov. 29 win over the Buffalo Bills, for the ACL injury to be diagnosed and repaired.
Those two months of lag time could be the difference between Houston having a productive 2016 season or not having one at all.
The Chiefs obviously wanted Houston back for the playoffs, a goal that seemed reasonable with the initial diagnosis of a posterior cruciate injury. After missing the final five regular-season games, Houston did play in both playoff contests even though he obviously was still limited. He wasn't particularly effective and didn't play as much as he otherwise would have.
Before the regular season finished, Houston visited noted orthopedic surgeon James Andrews. Had his ACL injury, which Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder described as not being a tear, been determined then, surgery could have been moved up and Houston could have had a realistic shot at a full 2016 season.
Houston could still have that full season. Burkholder said a normal rehab schedule would be six to 12 months for a procedure such as the one Houston had. The surgery was performed Feb. 16.
Coach Andy Reid sounded more hopeful than optimistic about Houston's chances of playing next season.
"We're hoping just because of his work ethic and he's been a fast healer in the past ... that he'll be able to play this season," Reid said. "It's too early to be able to tell on that."
Under the six-month scenario, Houston would return to the Chiefs by the middle of August and would seemingly have a good chance of having a full and productive season.
That's the best-case view. Nine months of rehab seems more realistic for an ACL surgery and that would put his return at mid-November. Things rarely go well for players who have missed all of offseason practice, training camp and the preseason and try to return when teammates and opponents have been working at football for months.
The Chiefs will have a better idea of Houston's chances for a productive year later, as the spring wears on. It looks at this point like they're preparing to play most if not all of the season without him.