Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Poe’s back (and his back is back), but the Chiefs would be wise not to push him too far, too soon

Dontari Poe is cleared to play Week 1 in Houston, which is great. But the Kansas City defensive line learned in recent weeks that it could live for a time without him — which is even better.

Fun fact No. 1: In the preseason, the Houston Texans ran for 2.8 yards per clip, 93.5 rushing yards per game, one touchdown on the ground over four exhibitions.

As NFL rankings go, that’s — let’s see — 29th, 19th, 28th.

Fun fact No. 2: The Kansas City Chiefs gave up 3.2 yards a pop, 81.8 yards per game, and three scores on the ground.

And, scrolling again: sixth, fourth, 15th.

Somebody missed Arian Foster.

A hell of a lot more than somebody else missed Dontari Poe.

August is your copy of Madden 16 on “Pro” mode. This week, the sliders switch over to “All-Pro,” the assists come off, and the shrapnel starts flying.

The best news about No. 92 being cleared to play Week 1 in Texas isn’t necessarily that he’s back. Or that his back’s back.

It’s that the Andy Gang learned to live without him.

In last fall’s opener, the Pro Bowl nose tackle played 81 of a possible 82 snaps. In 2013, it was 64 of a possible 74. He’s one of defensive coordinator Bob Sutton’s favorite toys, and justifiably, the rock you stick at the front, the El Camino in the middle, the anchor around which all the flying parts rotate.

Fun fact No. 3: No Foster Sunday.

Fun fact No. 4: Of the 200 interior NFL tackles who logged at least three snaps in exhibitions, just 82 graded out a +1.0 or better by ProFootballFocus.com. The Chiefs’ Jaye Howard was 55th with a +2.1, and Loni Fangupo was 51st with a +2.3.

“You’ve got different guys who specialize in different situations,” defensive end Mike DeVito observed last month when asked about the depth of his unit, which found itself tested while Poe sat out to recover from off-season back surgery. “So you know when the situation arises, you’ve got fresh guys ready to roll.”

Howard? Howard’s fresh.

Poe needs to find his sea legs. Dude needs time.

Time and mojo. Big Dontari has weathered aches and pains before, the usual wear and tear suffered at the eye of the hurricane. Most of ‘em went away.

This one didn’t.

“I was just doing regular offseason workouts and the pain was just getting worse and worse,” Poe told reporters Thursday. “That’s when I called (Chiefs trainer) Rick (Burkholder) and kind of went through that process. I feel like they did a great job of bringing me back and doing what I need to do to find out what I could do to help it.”

Rest. Ratcheting things down, from workout intensity to calories. But especially calories. Poe’s reportedly down about 10 pounds off his usual, 346-pound girth, which is even more impressive when you consider it’s a man acting on orders to take it easy.

“It’s because I was sitting down for a month and I didn’t want to be eating and come back at 400 pounds,” Poe explained Thursday. “I just decided to put it in my head to eat right. Really my mom got me hip to it, to just eat right and take care of your body more. That’s just how it happened.”

So he’s leaner.

Meaner, we’ll see.

“He told me he was down, like 330, 335 (pounds), and I said, ‘Man, you have to get back up to 345, man, take some blocking for me,’” inside linebacker Derrick Johnson told reporters Thursday. “But it’s one of those things. He’s one of the best nose tackles in this game. And to have him back means a lot for an inside ‘backer and just means that I’m going to be a little more free. That’s always good.”

Discretion is better. Having Poe fresh for the post-Halloween push is better.

“(Doctors have been) telling me the same thing that I’ve pretty much been thinking: Play it by ear, see how it goes,” the Chiefs’ nose tackle said. “The healing process takes time, so you can’t rush it.”

Amen. Amen, amen, amen. In 2013 and 2014, Poe led all NFL interior tackles in snaps (1,004 and 966, respectively). Nobody in the loop runs a marathon like Big 92. But for one week, at least, it probably wouldn’t hurt to let another El Camino help share the load.

You can reach Sean Keeler via E-mail seanmkeeler@gmail.com or follow him @SeanKeleler on Twitter


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