ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- One month and one day before they begin their season against the defending Super Bowl champions, the Kansas City Chiefs had almost half of their starting defense sit out Sunday's training camp practice.
Safety Eric Berry, cornerback Steven Nelson, linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive linemen Chris Jones and Bennie Logan were elsewhere as the Chiefs conducted their ninth practice of the summer at Missouri Western State University.
The Chiefs also practiced without a key offensive player, tight end Travis Kelce, who has had swelling in a knee that was surgically repaired early in his career. That in itself should be a concern. Kelce has missed three straight practice sessions.
For now, the injury bug is a bigger problem on defense. Sunday's starting defensive lineup included lineman Rakeem Nunez-Roches, rookie linebacker Ukeme Eligwe, safety Eric Murray and cornerback D.J. White. All are promising players who might help the Chiefs in some capacity this season.
Still, the Chiefs would prefer to have former Pro Bowlers in Berry and Johnson and accomplished players like Nelson, Logan and Jones in their lineup on Sept. 7, when they open the season at the New England Patriots.
The Chiefs were merely resting the 34-year-old Johnson, who tore his Achilles tendon last December.
"He's had three good, solid days," coach Andy Reid. "We're monitoring him with the Achilles but he's [OK]."
Some of the other defensive injuries may not last much longer. Logan has swelling in his knee but no structural damage after being hit in the joint Saturday. Berry has what the Chiefs are calling a sore heel. He's had trouble with that same ailment before.
Nelson hasn't practiced since Thursday because of a sore groin muscle. Jones hasn't practiced at all during camp after having arthroscopic knee surgery last month.
"He's making progress, though," Reid said of Jones. "We'll just see how he does. But everything has been positive to this point."
To illustrate the point, Jones did some running off to the side during practice. That's not the same, though, as being back on the practice field.
He, like the other injured Chiefs, has time to recover. But the clock is ticking. Tom Brady and the rest of the Patriots will be waiting whether or not all of Kansas City's defenders are ready.