Willie Roaf: Clifton Roaf broke down while presenting his son, the offensive tackle who anchored lines for the New Orleans Saints and Kansas City Chiefs. We were reminded of Roaf’s nickname in New Orleans — Gilligan’s Island — for his ability to swallow up defensive linemen in a storm … and make them disappear. Roaf was a scary man on the field, but he was all love tonight. He closed by thanking his mother, Andree Layton Roaf, who passed away in 2009: “No, mom, I did not become a doctor, a lawyer or a brain surgeon, but I did become a Pro Football Hall of Famer, and I know you’re proud of me.”
Watch him go. This past Thursday. The practice fields at Missouri Western State University. Charles catches a pass, plants and zips toward the sideline. The knee does not buckle, and it does not hurt. He keeps running until the whistle blows.
This is a glimpse of the old Jamaal Charles — before the injury. This is one of the things he trained for. Doesn’t matter how quickly his legs are moving. These are baby steps.
After surgery, about a month after suffering the injury, Charles began rehabilitating his knee twice a day in Pensacola, Fla. He would rise early, enduring stretches and strength exercises, some of them painful, and sure, he said, there were days he just wanted to remain in bed.
“I had to want to be back on top again,” he said. “I had to do all the right things.”
“From a defensive standpoint, having to defend all of those different looks with one personnel group makes it tough, so you have to decide, do you want to play your regular defense versus those guys or do you want to play your sub defense versus that group,” Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel explained.
“That makes it tough because they can do whatever they want. If you put your regular defense out there, they’ll probably throw it a little bit more. If you put your sub out there, they’ll probably run it a little bit more. That’s the dilemma that you face.”
McCluster participates in drills with the wide receivers, not the running backs. In team work, he lines up as a slot receiver in most formations and splits wide in others. He occasionally gets a carry on a sweep or a reverse and sees work as a quarterback in the wildcat. And he’s also a prime candidate to return kicks and punts.
So where does head coach Romeo Crennel like McCluster the most?
“In the end zone,” said Crennel, with a hearty laugh. “That’s where I like him best.”
“We have confidence,” Chiefs defensive end Glenn Dorsey said. “We have a lot of guys coming back, a lot of guys got healthy. We want to build on what we did last year. We feel like we had the right guys in the right places.”
Eight of those players account for the majority of the experience: linebacker Tamba Hali (95 starts), linebacker Derrick Johnson (93), defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey (61), cornerback Brandon Flowers (59), linebacker Jovan Belcher (34), defensive lineman Tyson Jackson (31), safety Kendrick Lewis (26) and safety Eric Berry (26).