Kansas City, Mo. Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles said Thursday that he’s focused on finishing the season strong after coming back from a devastating knee injury and then dealing with a murder-suicide that hit especially close to home.
Charles tore his left ACL early last season, causing him to miss the entire year. But he’s returned to be one of the few bright spots for the Chiefs (2-12), running for 1,230 yards and four touchdowns for one of the league’s worst offenses.
“My knee has been holding up pretty good,” Charles said Thursday in his first interview in weeks. “I’m still rehabbing, getting stronger. I feel like it’s getting better, too. It’s been a long season, but I’ve been taking care of it the whole year, too.”
What Charles has overcome physically in the past year, however, pales in comparison to what the running back has dealt with emotionally over the past few weeks.
Three weeks ago Saturday, Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot to death his girlfriend, Kasandra Perkins, and then drove the short distance to Arrowhead Stadium and committed suicide in the parking lot as coach Romeo Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli watched.
Perkins was the cousin of Charles’ wife, Whitney, and Charles helped to introduced her to Belcher. Perkins and Belcher had a 3-month-old daughter, Zoey.
“I don’t even want to talk about that,” Charles said, when asked how difficult the past few weeks have been. “I just want to talk about football.”
On the field, his performance never wavered.
Just one day after the shootings, he ran for 127 yards in a 27-21 win an over the Carolina Panthers. He followed it up with 165 yards at Cleveland, scoring Kansas City’s lone touchdown when he took the opening handoff 80 yards for the score.
Charles has made himself scarce in the locker room the last few weeks, and has declined to speak when approached by reporters. He was spotted at a memorial service for Perkins in Texas the week after the shootings, but hasn’t missed a practice or a game.
Now, with two games left, he needs 237 yards to match his career high set in 2010.
“When I first touched a thousand yards for the season, in my mind I was like, ‘Wow, I really made it there, and I still have five more games,” Charles said. “I was like, ‘Man, I can really gain some more yards.’ I still have two more games and I’m trying to push my team, my linemen, let me finish strong. I want to at least have 1,500 at the finish.”
Charles also will know Wednesday whether he’s been selected to his second Pro Bowl, and he said it would “be the best feeling I’ve felt this whole month and this whole year.”
But he also said he wouldn’t be disappointed if he’s passed over in the voting.
“I wouldn’t be disappointed because last year I didn’t play football at all,” Charles said. “This year I got to play football again. That’s the most important thing for me.”