For the first time all season, the Chiefs’ defense could get one of its two projected starters at safety on the field in uniform for an actual game — none of this being on the sidelines and serving as a de facto assistant coach.
Daniel Sorensen returned to the 53-man roster this week after having spent the entire season on injured reserve.
It’s tough to tell what sort of impact Sorensen may have this weekend against the Arizona Cardinals at Arrowhead Stadium. He’s not even guaranteed to play, at least not as far as he let on while speaking to reporters on Wednesday. Chiefs coach Andy Reid also did not offer any details on how Sorensen could be used, or whether he’d play on Sunday.
“It’s going to be up to the coaches where they put me,” Sorensen said. “I’ve had time to be in meetings, to watch games, to review film. The mental aspect, I’m caught up. I’m well aware of what’s going on. Again, it’s going to be up to the coaches to determine how they use me.”
In a season in which the safety position has been characterized by a revolving door of players and hopes hanging on Eric Berry’s perpetual and unquantifiable day-to-day progress, there’s some comfort in familiarity.
Sorensen, who suffered a tibial plateau fracture to his left leg during training camp, has spent his entire career with the Chiefs. He’s played in 56 games, and he started 14 of the 15 in which he played last season. He led the team in tackles (88) and ranked third in quarterback hits (seven).
Despite having had some “hardware” surgically inserted into his knee, Sorensen always had the expectation of returning to the field this season. He returned to practice two weeks ago, and he has used that time to knock off rust and attempt to get back into the flow of playing again.
“They did a great job communicating to me all the boundaries and the scope of the injury and the rehab time line, so it didn’t really bother me — knowing that I was going to come back,” Sorensen said. “I didn’t have a hard time with that. Obviously, dealing with the pain and the aftermath of the surgery was the most difficult.”
A 6-foot-2, 208-pound fifth-year pro out of BYU, Sorensen has been around the facility since having his surgery. He’s been in meetings and walk-throughs and has been on the sidelines during home games. The only thing he said he hadn’t done while rehabbing was travel with the team.
The Chiefs re-signed veteran safety Ron Parker at the end of training camp to make up for Sorensen’s absence. They also acquired Jordan Lucas via a trade at the end of the preseason, and Lucas has started three games at safety. Lucas has also played the same dime linebacker role, along with rookie linebacker Dorian O’Daniel, that Sorensen played in the past.
“If ... I get out there, (my expectation is) to just get comfortable being back out there and being able to have confidence with contact — something you can’t simulate with the rehab and things like that,” Sorensen said. “That’s kind of my goal, to regain some confidence.”
The Chiefs chose not to make a trade to bolster the secondary prior to last week’s deadline, seemingly relying on the return of veterans like Sorensen and perhaps Berry to raise their level of play. Through nine games, the defense has given up the second-most yards per game (427.4) in the NFL and ranks 20th in scoring defense (25.1 ppg) and 27th in yards per play (6.2).
“He’s one of the guys that’s the heart and soul of this team, seeing him out there running around doing what he does — I’m excited for him to get out there and really start balling with us,” starting linebacker Reggie Ragland said the week Sorensen started practicing.
“I’m excited because that is going to take a lot of pressure in the back end off people, because he’s one of the veteran guys that knows everything that’s going on. Especially, when we get two-nine (No. 29, Berry) back, things really going to be a problem. I’m excited for when we get everybody back healthy on this defense. It’s going to get hectic.”
Sorensen’s ability to play both safety and dime linebacker also creates flexibility, particularly with an experienced player to go along with two players in their first season in this defense in Lucas and O’Daniel. In O’Daniel’s case, he’s also playing a new position.
“We had Husain Abdullah here who did that role for us when we first got here, and he was really good at it. He kind of helped trained Dan, kind of taught him the ropes,” Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton said when Sorensen initially returned to practice. “That was a huge advantage. I think Dan the last couple years has gotten pretty good in there. You get a couple of these other guys back, and it changes what you can do a little bit.”