As spectacular as Jamaal Charles was for the Chiefs in 2009 and 2010, when as a part-time player he rushed for almost 2,600 yards, he no longer considers that to be his greatest football achievement.
Charles believes his greatest accomplishment as a pro is his current season.
A year after tearing his ACL and having season-ending knee surgery, Charles is again nearing 1,000 rushing yards. He is eighth in the NFL in rushing with 928 yards, so he needs just 72 in Sunday's game against Carolina at Arrowhead Stadium to get there.
Charles has rushed for more than 72 yards in each of his last three games, so it's reasonable to think he might surpass 1,000 on Sunday.
While on-field revelry isn't necessarily Charles' style, he might do a little celebration once he gets to the magic number.
“I took it as a challenge, but I didn't think I'd get (to 1,000 yards),” Charles said. “Before the injury, I knew I could do that. It was easy. I don't want to say easy, but it was something I knew I could do. This year, I didn't know if it was going to be here with me coming off the knee injury. I thought it would be harder. I thought I would be slower. I was expecting the worst. But at the end of the day, it came out well.
“I set that as a goal. My goal was to get 1,000 yards. I'm still pushing and trying to be the best running back. I know not many players have done it in their careers, come back off knee surgery and (rush for more than 1,000 yards). It's really hard. You've got to be tough. Your mind has to be tough. You've got to be mentally tough.”
Minnesota's Adrian Peterson had an injury similar to Charles' last year, but his happened even later in the season. Peterson leads the NFL in rushing this year.
Charles is aware of Peterson's injury and the rebound season he's having. But Charles said that doesn't diminish his own accomplishments.
“Coming off the injury, nobody expected me to do this,” Charles said. “This is something special. This is proving to people I can still run the ball. Everybody had low expectations for me. People were saying I'd never be the same.
“It's the hardest thing I've had to do. It's something special. Coming back off knee surgery, you wouldn't think I'd be close to 1,000 yards. Coming back off that injury and then doing well, it just shows you I'm very blessed to do something like this. The guys that are blocking for me are doing a great job, so all the credit should go to them.”
Or should it go to Charles? Charles is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, which would be the lowest average among his five NFL seasons.
But it dwarfs the average of the Chiefs' other two main featured backs, Shaun Draughn (4.0) and Peyton Hillis (3.7). It also continues a pattern started when Charles joined the Chiefs - that he consistently outgains the team's other backs on a per-carry basis.
That speaks to Charles' ability relative to Kansas City's other backs, who are running the same plays behind the same blockers.
“I knew he was a good football player,” said offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, who is in his first year with the Chiefs. “Sometimes, I was on the opposite sideline watching him hit the sideline and go down the steps. I just knew he was a good football player who was good with the ball in his hands. . . . He can really run any run you need him to run. He's been a productive guy for us, and we're going to (continue to) need him to be.”
The Chiefs didn't know how well Charles would play after his injury. Like Charles himself, they are relieved by what they've learned.
“You really don't know when a guy is returning from a major injury,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “You don't know exactly how he's going to respond, how he's going to come back. We're pleased with what he's done to date. He's running the ball very well, and he adds a playmaking dynamic to the team.”
Charles this season has a game of 200-plus yards (New Orleans) and three others of 100-plus (Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Denver). He also has games with 3 rushing yards (Buffalo) and 4 (Oakland).
And don't think for a moment that Charles has forgotten those two poor games.
“I look back on some of the games I had with 5 yards or whatever,” he said. “I could have had 1,000 yards already. I don't want any more of those games.
“I can still make things go. Hopefully, I'll be able to finish out this year strong, and we can win some games.”
Distributed by MCT Information Services