Leaders R.P. Isiah Pacheco will be at full strength for the opener

Adam TeicherESPN staff writerJuly 20, 2023, 01:38 PM ET3 minutes of reading

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ST Joseph, Mo. — running back Isiah Pacheco, who missed all of offseason practice after surgery on shoulder and hand injuries, said he will “absolutely” be at full strength on Sept. 7 when the Kansas City Chiefs begin defense of their Super Bowl championship against the Detroit Lions.

“I believe in the staff and we were able to execute a plan,” said Pacheco, who led the Chiefs in rushing as a freshman last season with 830 yards and five touchdowns. “I’m getting back in shape. Working.”

Pacheco has been a limited participant in practice this week as the Chiefs hold a mini-camp for quarterbacks and rookies. Pacheco wears a bright yellow jersey, usually reserved for quarterbacks, that signals other players not to contact him, even though practice sessions are conducted without the pads.

The Chiefs did not say when Pacheco would be cleared for full practice participation.

“Whenever the coaches let me play, whenever (coach Andy Reid) says you’re good to go, that’s when I’m going to go out and show,” Pacheco said.

“I feel better now. It’s a process and it takes time. . . .

Pacheco said he played through a shoulder injury last season and broke his hand in the AFC Championship Game win over the Cincinnati Bengals. He played through both injuries in the Super Bowl LVII win over the Philadelphia Eagles. “It doesn’t bother me,” he said he told himself before the game and rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown.

“We had two weeks to recover,” he said. “I was fine with the recovery and what we did with the staff, I was able to play. They told me right.”

The Chiefs aren’t concerned about Pacheco’s availability for the season or his performance when he returns. They haven’t regressed through free agency or the draft, with Jerick McKinnon and Clyde Edwards-Helair returning from last season as the other two top players at the position.

Pacheco said he plans to rush for at least 1,000 yards this season. The Chiefs haven’t surpassed that mark since Kareem Wade in 2017.

“That’s the goal, obviously,” he said. “It starts day by day in training today (today).

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