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Kansas City Chiefs welcome back OLB Tamba Hali to defense

By Bob Gretz, The Sports Xchange
Kansas City Chiefs welcome back OLB Tamba Hali to defense
Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning scrambles out of the pocket against the Kansas City Chiefs' Tamba Hali. UPI/Gary C. Caskey | License Photo

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- This week, Tamba Hali returns to the practice field for the Kansas City Chiefs.

The veteran outside linebacker has been rehabbing after knee surgery back in January, spending the early part of the preseason on the league's physically-unable-to-perform list.

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But he was activated Tuesday and he'll have three weeks to get himself ready to play in the regular-season opener against San Diego on Sept. 11.

Barring any new problems with his balky knees, Hali will be on the field against the Chargers. The defense could use him and his ability to pressure the quarterback. With teammate Justin Houston out of action because of his own knee surgery and rehab, Andy Reid and coordinator Bob Sutton need what Hali can bring.

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However, there's a good chance that Hali will be rushing the passer with less frequency than in the first 10 seasons of his career. The 32-year-old has been battling knee problems for a half-dozen seasons, although he has missed just four of the 160 regular-season games.

Hali is not ready to end his career, and the Chiefs aren't pushing him in that direction. They do want to handle his playing time in a more efficient manner.

"I know they want to limit my role as in how much I play to be able to sustain me over the 24-week period of playing a season," Hali said during the offseason. "I believe there will be times that I may have to play the entire game, and I believe there will be times I have to step back and there will be other guys that will play.

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"I'll just be needed when they need me. It happened since Coach (Reid) got here. There are games where we're winning and Coach basically says, 'We don't need you in this for the rest of the game,' and he'll pull me maybe in the third quarter, fourth quarter. I get upset, but then growing into the type of player that they see me becoming at the end of my career, it only makes sense.

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"There's no reason to go up there and pad the stats. Our main goal here is to win the Lombardi Trophy and risking injury trying to do more than is needed, it's not going to help our team. Right now, it's my focus ... really focused on our team as a whole and not what we can do individually."

Hali has dragged down quarterbacks 86 times, but he has had just 12.5 in the last two seasons (2014-15). He ranks third in franchise history in sacks behind outside linebacker and Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas (126.5) and defensive end Neil Smith (86.5). Hali is second in K.C. history for forced fumbles with 33, trailing only Thomas (45).

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With five consecutive slots in the Pro Bowl, Hali has enjoyed personal attention and rewards during his career.

"I love the game, it's almost like I've been brainwashed from Penn State," Hali said of his alma mater. "I love playing the game. I don't care where you put me, I just love playing. That might have to change. With all the new technology and how you can monitor guys, I can probably be more effective with less snaps.

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"That's not coming from me, it's coming from upstairs, and I agree with them. You look around the league, I think a year or two ago, (Elvis) Dumervil played half the snaps that I did and ended up with 18 sacks. I believe I can be more productive."

With Houston's season in doubt, the Chiefs are counting on Hali to be "more productive."

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