KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs aren’t only playing through pain. They’re coaching through it, too.
A bad knee that left him barely able to walk during training camp was just the beginning for Charlie Weis this year. Next, an acute gall bladder infection plunged the tough-as-a-boot offensive coordinator into agony and left him with a knotty dilemma: go ahead and have surgery, relieve the suffering but miss the San Francisco game?
Or wait two days until after the game?
Weis, 54, waited. He endured 48 hours of pain until the Chiefs had routed San Francisco on Sept. 26, and then hurried into the hospital to allow doctors to fix the problem.
“That did show a lot of guts,” said wide receiver Chris Chambers. “He could have taken a month off and laid around the house and nobody would have blamed him. But I don’t think he took one day off.”
The former Notre Dame head coach and offensive coordinator for New England’s three Super Bowl champions said he’s feeling fine these days.
But ever since training camp opened he’s needed a motorized cart to get around the practice field. As soon as the season is over, he’ll have surgery on the knee.
“Doing fine,” he said Friday with a grin. “I like it here in Kansas City. I like it here with the Chiefs. My family likes it here. Things have gone well.”
The improvement in the offense since Weis came aboard last January has been dramatic. Going into Sunday’s game against Buffalo, the Chiefs (4-2) are averaging 345 yards per game, lead the NFL in rushing and occupy first place in the AFC West.
Last year without Weis, the Chiefs finished fourth in their division and Matt Cassel threw 16 touchdown passes and 16 interceptions. So far this year in six games, he’s thrown for nine touchdowns and been intercepted only three times. Among quarterbacks with at least 150 pass attempts, only Peyton Manning and Mark Sanchez have thrown fewer picks.
“He’s helped us tremendously,” said former Pro Bowl left guard Brian Waters. “What he did was come in and figure out what we do well and what we don’t do well. I think he’s put it all together and it’s helped us a lot.”
Knowing what Weis has been going through, any player who feels tempted to complain about this bump or that bruise is more likely to just shut his mouth and go back to work.
“We know it means something to him to be here with us,” said center Casey Wiegman. “He could have been sitting around at home, resting, getting better. And nobody would have blamed him.”
Health problems are no stranger to Weis, who like so many Americans has battled weight problems most of his life. He underwent gastric bypass surgery in 2002 and lost around 90 pounds. But he lapsed into a coma after the operation and sued for malpractice, eventually losing. His knee problem probably traces to an accident in 2008 when one of his Notre Dame players ran into him during a game and tore his anterior cruciate ligament and medial collateral ligament.
Just a few days before training camp opened, he said, “a piece of my knee fell off.”
Surgery will have to wait until the season is done. But it was obvious the first weeks of camp that he was walking with great difficulty, wearing a brace on the left knee and steadying himself with a cane.
“The fact he’s willing to do the things he does and be here every day to work is impressive,” said backup quarterback Brodie Croyle. “He’ll fight through whatever it is he needs to fight through. And I think that’s the reason he has so much respect in this league and in this locker room.”
Weis dismisses such talk.
“I appreciate the comments. But in reality, I don’t play,” he said. “You don’t get paid to play when you’re a coach. So if you have some things physically that you have to deal through, you’re getting paid more for your mind than you are for any of that stuff. That’s really not a big deal with me.”
Coach Todd Haley teases Weis about his bright red cart. Players refer to his “Cadillac chair.”
But they do so with great respect.
“We don’t know how much he’s hurting because you never can tell. He doesn’t show anything,” said Chambers. “He wants the same out of his players. A team usually takes on the identity of their coach, and that’s his personality. He’s tough.”