On the surface, L'Jarius Sneed's place on the Kansas City Chiefs' list of injuries isn't all that alarming. Head coach Andy Reid speaks of it in an easygoing manner and references the team's posture as one of caution and concern more than anything else—akin to just allowing a young mother to rest since she's not getting enough sleep.
If you pick up the throughline, however, of just how long a knee injury has been an issue for Sneed, the results are actually quite problematic.
In a preseason where most of the injury concerns are focused on wide receiver Kadarius Toney and running back Isiah Pacheco, SD with the rest of his teammates should be a greater talking point—both because of his importance to the team and the uncertain nature of the injury.
The importance of L'Jarius Sneed
Let's make things crystal clear from the outset: the Chiefs' primary goal is to defend their Super Bowl title in this present window with Travis Kelce healthy and productive and Andy Reid still interested on the sidelines. That makes Sneed, who is the team's second best defender a very, very important player.
Other than holdout defensive end Chris Jones, the Chiefs lean on Sneed to do more than anyone else. Trent McDuffie has an exciting ceiling. Nick Bolton might make his first Pro Bowl this season. George Karlaftis and Felix Anudike-Uzomah are first-round cornerstones. But Sneed is still more essential than all of those players for the Chiefs in 2023.
Given what defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo likes to do defensively, Sneed has turned into the ultimate chess piece for him. Sneed is a young defensive back who does all things well, which allows him to be utilized in any number of ways. He's effective on the blitz and solid against the run, yet he can also stay with his man on the boundary. Just the threat of Sneed doing one of a few things on any given play allows the entire unit to keep opposing quarterbacks guessing until the ball is hiked.
The upside for the Chiefs is that their draft efforts have kept the depth chart at defensive back quite full. The room already had multiple starters and that was before this draft class brought in Chamarri Conner and Nic Jones, not to mention an undrafted talent like Reese Taylor. The Chiefs have the horses to handle teams without Sneed for the most part, but when the games really matter most, Sneed is the guy the Chiefs want in place.
The uncertainty of Sneed's injury
That's what makes it tough for Spags and company, then, to know that Sneed might need more time than anyone might realize. All of this is conjecture on our part, and there's no way of knowing for sure unless you're in the building at Arrowhead, but you should know that Sneed's knee injury has been a thing for much longer than most fans likely realize.
Earlier this week, Andy Reid stated that Sneed continues to sit out of practice in order to manage the swelling around his knee. That was exactly what he said back on June 15 when Sneed also had to sit out of mandatory minicamp in the spring.
Following the thread even further back, don't forget that Sneed was nursing what was a concussion back before the Super Bowl win over the Philadelphia Eagles. When he was cleared to play again, suddenly Sneed's name remained on the injured list. That was back when his knee was first declared an issue.
Going back to just before the Super Bowl and extending that timeline to the present, that's a very, very long time for a player to have dealt with such an injury. Was there a decision against surgery?: Is this going to be a literal week-to-week thing all year? If so, it's horrible timing for Sneed knowing he's coming into his contract season.