KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Chris Jones did not report to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday to begin preparing for their season opener against Detroit, making it highly unlikely that the All-Pro defensive tackle will play against the Lions on Thursday night.
Jones has been holding out while trying to get a long-term contract. He is entering the final year of a four-year, $80 million pact, and has been racking up millions in fines for missing offseason workouts, training camp and all three preseason games.
The 29-year-old pass rusher will forfeit about $1.1 million for each regular-season game he misses.
“You’re never sure how it’s going to work out. You deal with too many people in this type of thing,” said Chiefs coach Andy Reid, who declined to discuss his own involvement in the negotiations before the first significant practice of game week.
“These things can go any direction. I don’t want to spend too much time on it,” Reid added. “We had 90 guys in the offseason that I was making sure were going in the right direction, and now we’re getting ready to play a game. That’s how I go about it.”
Reid was more hopeful that wide receiver Kadarius Toney and cornerback L’Jarius Sneed would be ready for the opener. Toney missed most of training camp after surgery for a torn meniscus and Sneed, one of the Chiefs’ best cornerbacks, has been out for more than a month with swelling in his knee.
Most of the attention remains on Jones, though, given his importance to the Kansas City defense. He tied a career high with 15 1/2 sacks last season, picked up his first postseason sacks and helped the Chiefs beat Philadelphia in the Super Bowl.
Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said last week communication with Jones’ representatives picked up after a long impasse ahead of the regular season.
Veach even said he was “certainly hopeful” that a deal could be reached in time for Jones to report to practice and be on the field when the Chiefs raise their latest title banner at Arrowhead Stadium.
“I don’t know what his agenda is,” Reid said, “or when he is coming.”
Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who is close with Jones, went on his “New Heights” podcast with his brother, Eagles center Jason Kelce, and implored his teammate to report to practice. Kelce sounded much like Reid, telling Jones: “You must know something I don’t know because I just don’t get it. I really want to win another Super Bowl ring with you, brother.”
“I mean, at this point you just prepare to play the game with the guys that are in the building,” Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes added before Sunday’s sweltering practice, “and let the front office handle that. We have a tough test and we’re going to focus on how we can win with the guys we have here.”
Indeed, the Chiefs are preparing to face one of the league’s top offenses. Led by quarterback Jared Goff and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, the Lions had the third-most yards in the NFL last season and finished fourth in touchdowns.
Jones’ absence is compounded by the fact that pass rusher Charles Omenihu, who was signed to replace defensive end Frank Clark, is suspended for the first six weeks of the season for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy.
“It’s the same thing as if a guy got hurt in the middle of the season,” Chiefs safety Justin Reid said. “The situation is what it is. Chris is one of the best players in the NFL. But we have to go with what we’ve got.”
Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton, who carries the green dot and is responsible for getting the defense set, pointed out that Kansas City has been without Jones throughout the offseason and training camp. That’s given time for Derrick Nnadi and Turk Wharton to get more reps in the base defense and backups Keondre Coburn and Malik Herring extra work at the tackle spot.
“We gave a lot of people a chance to play,” Bolton said. “A lot of guys that don’t get a lot of playing time with Chris here will get a lot of opportunities. The guys we’ve got, we’ve got, and we’re going to go out there and try to dominate Week 1.”