KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs began the season eagerly awaiting the return of Bashaud Breeland, the veteran cornerback so instrumental in slowing down the San Francisco 49ers and helping Kansas City win its first Super Bowl in 50 years in February.
Now that Breeland served his four-game suspension, though, there is no guarantee he will even start.
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo said Thursday that the Chiefs are slowly working Breeland back into the mix, but that he remains comfortable with the cornerbacks that already have helped them to a 4-0 start. That includes Charvarius Ward, who has played through a fractured hand, and Rashad Fenton, a 2019 sixth-round pick who’s flourished after a move from nickelback to the outside that was needed when L’Jarius Sneed broke his collarbone.
“Bashaud was a starter for us. We know what he can do,” Spagnuolo said. “It’s Game 5 and going down the stretch here we’ll need everybody, so you want to get guys oiled up. We’ll tread lightly and figure it out, but we have a lot of confidence in him and we have a lot of confidence in the guys that have been playing there.”
Spagnuolo has good reason. The Chiefs have the sixth-rated pass defense in the NFL through the first four weeks, despite Breeland’s suspension and injuries to Ward and Sneed that have forced Spagnuolo to use different rotations.
It helps that the Chiefs have been fortunate when it comes to opposing quarterbacks.
After slowing down the Texans’ Deshaun Watson in their season opener, the Chiefs caught a break when the Chargers’ Tyrod Taylor was hurt in pregame warmups and rookie Justin Herbert made his first career start.
Then, after holding the Ravens’ Lamar Jackson to just 15 for 28 for 97 yards passing, Cam Newton tested positive for COVID-19, forcing the Patriots to go with journeyman Brian Hoyer and untested youngster Jarrett Stidham last Monday night.
Up next is the Raiders’ Derek Carr, who has struggled mightily just about every time he’s visited Arrowhead Stadium.
“You look at the other players that they’ve played against, the other teams they’ve played against and what they’ve been able to hold them to — what a challenge for us,” Carr said. “We better step up to the plate and be ready to play.”
Especially now that Breeland is back in the mix in the secondary.
“He brings a lot of energy back,” Fenton said. “You know, he’s another vet along with the Honey Badger” — that would be Tyrann Mathieu — “and Dan (Sorensen) on the defensive court. It’s great because I’m a cornerback, so he brings the years into the DB room. It’s great to have him back. The whole team loves him.”
The fact that he still has the support of his teammates is noteworthy. Breeland put them in a considerable bind in April, when he was arrested on multiple charges that included resisting arrest, having alcohol in a motor vehicle and possessing marijuana. He already was facing a suspension for a failed drug test prior to the arrest, so it merely sealed the deal on a four-game suspension. Breeland pleaded guilty last week and received a fine and 30-day suspended jail sentence.
The legal troubles out of the way and the suspension lifted, Breeland was finally back on the practice field this week.
“He should certainly get reps out there,” Spagnuolo said. “There’s a lot of moving parts even during the week, guys with injuries and getting reps. We only get so many this time of year. We do more walk-throughs than anything else. We want to get Breeland up to speed, but we want to keep getting the other guys work.”
NOTES: Special teams coach Dave Toub said WR Mecole Hardman has been trying to do too much in the return game, and that has led to some miscues. He was fortunate to avoid a penalty Monday night when he started running after signaling for a fair catch on a punt return, and he let the ball bounce between his legs on another return. … K Harrison Butker, who was the star of the Chiefs’ win over the Chargers, missed a field goal against the Ravens and extra points each of the past two weeks. “You have to look at it and say, ‘What’s the problem?’” Toub said. “We figured out exactly what it was, we worked on it yesterday, we hit nothing but extra points. We know where the miss is happening. We just have to eliminate the miss.”
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