Kansas City, Mo. Priest Holmes has strained ligaments in his right knee and might not be able to play for the Kansas City Chiefs next week.
The standout running back left Sunday's loss to Tampa Bay with about four minutes left in the third quarter. His injury first was said to be a bruised knee, but the team learned Monday that Holmes has a strained MCL and could miss Kansas City's next game Sunday at New Orleans.
"The extent of the strain will only be known after a period of days," coach Dick Vermeil said. "We'll go ahead and prepare as if he's not going to be there."
Vermeil added that Holmes would be evaluated each day and was "a little better" on Monday.
The 31-year-old Holmes leads the NFL with 892 yards rushing and 90 points despite being dogged much of the season with nagging injuries.
He underwent hip surgery following the 2002 season and bounced back, scoring a league-record 27 touchdowns in 2003. He scored his 14th touchdown of this season in Kansas City's 34-31 loss to the Buccaneers before leaving after a 13-yard run around left end.
Vermeil, pressed on how long his three-time Pro Bowl running back might be out, threw up his hands.
"I can't make that determination right now. Nor can the doctors. Nor can Priest right now," he said. "Of course, Priest is always optimistic. And he surprises us all the time by doing what he does and how he does it.
"We'll just play it by ear."
The news about linebacker Shawn Barber's knee injury was worse. Vermeil said Barber could be out the rest of the year, and he'll be examined this week by a specialist in Birmingham, Ala.
"We'll know more later," Vermeil said, adding that it was "very possible" the seven-year veteran would not return this season.
The Chiefs (3-5) hope to get backup running back Derrick Blaylock on the practice field this week as they prepare for the Saints.
Blaylock, out last week with a thigh bruise, scored four rushing touchdowns against Atlanta on Oct. 24 as he and Holmes combined to score an NFL-record eight TDs.
Former No. 1 draft pick Larry Johnson, who has publicly lobbied for more playing time, had 21 yards on 10 carries in relief of Holmes against Tampa Bay. He also had four catches for 38 yards. But he failed twice on short runs at the goal line, where Holmes the past three years has been almost unstoppable.
"He did OK," Vermeil said of Johnson. "He's rusty. No running back looks real good until he gets to playing some. He missed two reads. But he's not used to running down there on those situations."
Holmes stood on the sideline next to running backs coach James Saxon during the final minutes Sunday, but appeared ready to go back in.
"We don't play anybody who isn't ready to play at his best, or would hurt him," Vermeil said.