Charles’ surgery was conducted by noted orthopedist Dr. James Andrews and the running back spent the majority of his time rehabbing this winter in Pensacola, Florida.
Recently, Charles returned to Kansas City for the start of the Chiefs offseason workout program.
“If you’re worried about me not being the same, just look for this year, look out for me and you’ll see,” Charles said on Tuesday.
The Chiefs plan to take things easy with Charles this spring, but the Pro Bowl runner conquered many of the hurdles associated with his recovery prior to arriving in Kansas City.
“I feel like I can do the same things my teammates do,” Charles said. “I do it without the coaches around. I catch balls, I cut, I do ladder drills and I’ve been doing this for like two months. So coaches weren’t there when I was back home working out, so whatever time that I need for my body to rest, I think it’s even better to wait it out for awhile.”
Charles reported to Kansas City lighter than anticipated, but is working to build back his weight with the team’s strength and conditioning staff.
Though he’s labeled his recovery at 80% complete, doctors have noted that Charles’ progress is moving ahead of schedule.
“I’m hungry, I want it this year,” Charles said. “I’ve got the passion for it. I can be patient, but I just can’t wait to play football. I can’t wait to bring stuff back to this community and show how much we can win.
“And I feel like this is a year for us, that we can go all the way because I can feel it. I feel I can bring a lot to the team this year being bigger and stronger, and I don’t know, maybe even faster. I can wait awhile. In my mind, I want to get back out there because I want to see where I’m at, but I feel like I’m already there, so I can just wait.”
The Chiefs took a similar approach with Charles following offseason shoulder surgery in 2010.
Charles watched the majority of OTAs from the sideline that spring, only participating in individual drills and strength and conditioning work.
He went on to rush for a career-high 1,467 yards in 2010 and earned his first Pro Bowl invitation. Prior to 2011, he had never missed an NFL game because of injury.
“It is just like when I had my shoulder surgery and I waited the whole training camp to come back,” Charles said. “I didn’t do anything really during OTAs or minicamp.”
Charles’ toughness goes overlooked because of his smaller stature and limited workload.
Though Kansas City’s coaching staff has been mindful of Charles’ carry count, and has often been criticized for being too cautious in their approach, Charles has averaged nearly 16 offensive touches per game since 2009.
He’s never strayed from playing hurt, particularly during the 2009 campaign when he’d run to the sideline and pop his shoulder into place before re-entering the game.
“It was a freakish play,” Charles said of the rushing attempt that ended his 2011 season. “It wasn’t one of those plays where I planted and somebody hit me in my knee. I feel like it was a strange play, but it happened and I’m still trying to think why it happened.
“But it happened and I just have to get over it and get it out of my mind. It’s in the past, now I’m in the future. Let’s go.”
Prior to suffering the injury, the only game Charles had missed since joining the Chiefs as a third-round pick in 2008 was the 2009 season opener against Oakland. Former head coach Todd Haley made Charles a healthy scratch for that contest.
Though he was crushed at the time, Charles often points to that game as motivation.
He had a similar description for last season, calling it a “sick feeling.”
“It made me stronger,” Charles said. “It made me the person that I am today, I can’t wait and I know how to take care of my body, how to eat right and do the right things and it’s made me not want to wait to touch that field again.
“When I touch that field going out there, you’re going to feel my pain; you’re going to go through what I went through. That right there is going to be there for the rest of my career because I don’t want to be out a whole year ever again.”