Chiefs pick up player to fill in for in­jured Watkins

The Kansas City Star - - Front Page - BY LYNN WOR­THY lwor­[email protected]­

The Chiefs wasted very lit­tle time in sign­ing free-agent and for­mer Buffalo Bills wide re­ceiver Kelvin Ben­jamin. The Bills waived Ben­jamin on Tues­day, and the Chiefs moved quickly to get the for­mer first-round draft pick into their fa­cil­ity on Thurs­day and an­nounced his sign­ing Fri­day morn­ing.

Part of the rea­son the move hap­pened so quickly may have be­come star­tlingly clear this week as The Star has learned from a source that start­ing wide re­ceiver Sammy Watkins is ex­pected to be side­lined for 4-6 weeks. That timetable in­cludes time he has al­ready missed, so he’d likely be out this week­end against the Bal­ti­more Ravens at Ar­row­head Sta­dium and then day to day after that.

Fol­low­ing Fri­day’s prac­tice, Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Watkins had “tweaked” his foot on Thurs­day and had an MRI on it that came back “OK.”

The Chiefs waived de­fen­sive end Jarvis Jenk­ins to make room for Ben­jamin. The ros­ter spot va­cated after last week­end’s waiv­ing of run­ning back Ka­reem Hunt got filled ear­lier this week when the team signed run­ning back Char­can­drick West.

“He’s been good against us, num­ber one,” Reid said of Ben­jamin. “A big, phys­i­cal player and, again, you add him to the mix. He comes in, he’s got ex­pe­ri­ence and been a good foot­ball player at this level and in this league. He was a great col­lege player. We liked him com­ing out of Florida State.”

The Chiefs have played the ma­jor­ity of their past three games with­out Watkins, a big-ticket freeagent sign­ing last off­sea­son. Wat-

kins par­tic­i­pated on a lim­ited ba­sis dur­ing Thurs­day’s prac­tice due to a foot in­jury that has ham­pered him since the Chiefs’ game in Cleve­land on Nov. 4.

Watkins was in­ac­tive against the Ari­zona Car­di­nals on Nov. 11, and he played just five snaps against the Los An­ge­les Rams in the Mon­day night shootout be­fore Thanks­giv­ing. He was in­ac­tive once again last week against the Raiders.

Ben­jamin, who will wear jersey No. 81, prac­ticed with the Chiefs for the first time on Fri­day. He al­most cer­tainly will not play this week, but Reid left open the pos­si­bil­ity of him play­ing Thurs­day night against the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers de­spite hav­ing a short week of prac­tice lead­ing into that game.

A rangy 6-foot-5 re­ceiver, Ben­jamin en­tered the NFL as the 28th over­all pick of the Carolina Pan­thers in 2014. He started 15 games and reg­is­tered 73 catches for 1,008 yards and nine touch­downs as a rookie. He spent the 2015 sea­son on in­jured re­serve with a torn left ACL, and he posted 63 catches and 941 re­ceiv­ing yards in 2016. The Pan­thers traded him to the Bills in Oc­to­ber 2017 in ex­change for a pair of 2018 draft picks.

Ben­jamin has faced crit­i­cism from fans about his weight, though Reid down­played any po­ten­tial con­di­tion­ing is­sues.

“He’s in a great shape,” Reid said. “He’s 239 pounds and look­ing good. He’s been big, I mean he’s a big kid. He’s in phe­nom­e­nal shape, and some­times a change of scenery can be good for a guy.”

This sea­son, Ben­jamin has caught just 23 passes de­spite hav­ing been tar­geted 62 times. He logged 354 re­ceiv­ing yards in 12 games. The Chiefs’ fifth­lead­ing re­ceiver this sea­son, Chris Con­ley, has 25 re­cep­tions for 248 yards.

Bills coach Sean Mc­Der­mott told Buffalo me­dia he hadn’t spo­ken to Reid about Ben­jamin. Mc­Der­mott coached un­der Reid in Philadel­phia and con­sid­ers Reid one of his men­tors.

Ben­jamin ad­mit­ted he could see the end com­ing for him with Buffalo, and he said the Chiefs quickly showed in­ter­est in hav­ing him in on a visit. Ben­jamin, who toured the fa­cil­ity on Thurs­day, liked what he heard and saw as well as the prospects of join­ing an of­fense he de­scribed as “un­guard­able.”

“It’s a busi­ness,” Ben­jamin said. “I’m glad to be here. The Chiefs have been tear­ing it up this year. They’re one of the teams that re­ally wanted me, and I’m happy and glad to be here.”

Ben­jamin made head­lines ear­lier this sea­son after mak­ing crit­i­cal com­ments in an in­ter­view. Among the com­ments, he said would have had more suc­cess if he’d played with an­other ac­cu­rate quar­ter­back in­stead of Cam Newton to start his ca­reer. Newton then con­fronted him dur­ing pregame warmups be­fore the Bills-Pan­thers pre­sea­son game.

While Ben­jamin’s num­bers have dropped off since his first sea­son, the Bills’ quar­ter­back is­sues have also been well doc­u­mented. They’ve used four start­ing quar­ter­backs this sea­son and have posted a 4-8 record.

The group of passers that Ben­jamin has played with this year in­cluded rookie Josh Allen; 35-yearold vet­eran backup Derek An­der­son, who the team signed in Oc­to­ber; Matt Barkley, who did not ap­pear in a game in 2017 and who signed in Oc­to­ber; and Nathan Peter­man, who had 12 ca­reer in­ter­cep­tions in 130 pass at­tempts in eight games for the Bills be­fore be­ing cut in Novem­ber.

“There’s a lot of vari­ables, I guess,” Ben­jamin said of the Bills. “It’s just one of those sea­sons. It’s a re­build-type year, I guess.”

Kelvin Ben­jamin

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