Charles Omenihu's playing time will be fluid situation for Chiefs

Omenihu has kept in good shape, but is he in game shape? Joe Cullen says the Chiefs have to wait and see.
Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs
Cleveland Browns v Kansas City Chiefs / David Eulitt/GettyImages

Steve Spagnuolo and his staff have been waiting for this moment: the week that they could add Charles Omenihu to their arsenal of players along the defensive line.

Coming into a new season, the Kansas City Chiefs targeted Omenihu as the primary offseason prize for the defense. Yes, Drue Tranquill has been a major addition as well among linebackers—much more so than anyone could have anticipated—but the expectations there are reflected in the single-season deal worth $3 million as compared to Omenihu's two-year, $20M deal.

The signing of Omenihu away from the San Francisco 49ers to a two-year deal was a bridge that would allow Omenihu to grow in a greater role than the rotational part he played in the Bay Area while allowing him to hit free agency again in his prime for another solid payday. For the Chiefs, Omenihu could serve as a productive pass rusher and veteran mentor to a younger crop of players after releasing Frank Clark and letting Carlos Dunlap's contract expire.

Omenihu has kept in good shape, but is he in game shape? Joe Cullen says the Chiefs have to wait and see.

Unfortunately, the Chiefs also knew there was a misdemeanor charge for domestic violence hanging overhead as an unresolved concern when they signed him, and the NFL followed through with a six-game suspension. Suddenly the Chiefs would have to wait on their bridge for more than one-third of a season. Now their wait is over.

The good news is that the Chiefs are 5-1 without Omenihu and those victories have largely come on the strength of the team's defensive play—including the front line. George Karlaftis is generating consistent pressure on the quarterback. Chris Jones is as productive as ever despite sitting out the preseason. Mike Danna looks plenty motivated in a contract year (although to be fair, Danna's motor is always on), and first-round rookie Felix Anudike-Uzomah has looked good in limited spurts.

As for Omenihu, it sounds as if both team and player are excited to have him back in the fold and officially ready to go for Week 7. Defensive line coach Joe Cullen spoke to the media earlier this week, and he said Omenihu was ready and waiting the moment the suspension was over: following the Chiefs' win over the Denver Broncos on Thursday Night Football.

"I’ll tell you this: he was waiting for me Friday morning when he was able to come back full time. He’s excited. We’re excited. Charles has worked hard and we’re glad to have him back, because he’s a really good football player and he’s working through things and we’re glad to have him back," said Cullen.

While the defense has held up well, Cullen pointed to the length of the regular season and their goals to play "hockey shifts" along the defensive front as further excitement to have Omenihu around.

"The ideal would be to keep everybody fresh so you have, like, hockey shifts going, so that’ll enable us ... to roll some guys more when he’s active."

For this first week, however, Cullen tapped the brakes on the expectations of analysts and fans because even the player himself would have to see how ready he is for actual game play after being away for the first month-and-a-half.

"He’s in good shape, but you’ve gotta be in football shape, too," said Cullen. "The same thing with Chris when he came back. Call it a pitch count and then they’re in good shape and then you know they’ll work through it to see where we’re at."