<
>

Injury losses tough for Chiefs to overcome

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The ominous signs for the Kansas City Chiefs and their 2014 season were everywhere in their season-opening loss to the Tennessee Titans.

None were more ominous than seeing two defensive starters, linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive end Mike DeVito, carted off the field within a few minutes of one another. The injuries were the same, a rupture of the Achilles tendon, and both are likely done for the season.

“It’s just a freaky day,’’ safety Eric Berry said.

The loss of Johnson will be more difficult for the Chiefs to overcome. A three-time Pro Bowler, Johnson was in many ways the heart of the Kansas City defense. His replacement, James-Michael Johnson, joined the Chiefs last year off waivers from the Cleveland Browns.

“He’s been here for years, he’s been through the coaching changes, he’s been through all of the ups and downs,’’ Berry said of Derrick Johnson. “He stayed true to the game, he never backed down regardless of what our record was, regardless of what everything outside of football was going on. He always came and brought his 'A' game.

“I think he was a good image of what everybody should be like on this team.”

The Chiefs can choose between Vance Walker and Jaye Howard to replace DeVito, who was a sturdy run defender and had improved as a pass-rusher. Walker signed as a free agent this year from the Oakland Raiders. Howard, who played well in the preseason, joined the Chiefs last year from the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent.

“DeVito means just as much to this defense especially in the run game and just his presence period in the locker room every day,’’ Berry said. “When you’ve got guys like that that things happen to, everybody is going to have to up their game with a little bit more focus.”