Chiefs rookie RB Kareem Hunt ‘ready for the challenge’

With Spencer Ware facing season-ending knee surgery, the Chiefs are putting their ground game in the hands of a rookie.

Kareem Hunt, Kansas City’s third-round pick, says he’s prepared for the role.

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“It means everything,” Hunt told the team’s official website. “It means that [coach Andy Reid] trusts and believes in me. I’m very excited to be taking on such a big role, and I’m ready for the challenge.”

Hunt has looked the part in August, running for 79 yards off 18 carries and catching four passes out of the backfield for another 31 yards in his first NFL preseason. Showing well as a blocker on passing downs, too, Hunt was zooming toward first-team carries even before Ware went down.

“I think we’re going to be OK there,” Reid said Sunday of Kansas City’s running back room. “Now, listen, are you going to replace [Ware]? No, he’s a good football player, but the young kid [Hunt] will step in and he’ll do a nice job for us, and Charcandrick [West] has got reps under his belt, and C.J. [Spiller] has reps under his belt, so we’re OK.”

Said Reid: “I don’t want to take anything away from [Ware] and how important he was to our team, but that’s a position where we have a little strength, so we should be OK.”

Berry’s absence will end before the preseason.

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Nike Chiefs #27 Kareem Hunt Black Men's Stitched NFL Limited Rush Jersey

Nike Chiefs #27 Kareem Hunt Black Men’s Stitched NFL Limited Rush Jersey

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport first reported Friday that Berry will report to the Chiefs’ facility early next week to sign his tender, per a source with knowledge of the situation.

With Berry reporting next week there is a great chance he plays Week 1 when the Chiefs face the San Diego Chargers. Rapoport reported that Berry is in good shape and “trained like crazy” this offseason.

Coach Andy Reid told NBC Sports Radio on Friday morning he has no concerns about Berry coming in out of shape and expects the safety to start the season on the field.

“Eric’s one of our good players and he’s in the business side of it right now,” Reid said. “This is all part of the profession, so I get it. But I also know when he comes in he’s going to be in great shape, he’ll be able to get himself back before the first game and be ready to go because that’s the way he trains in the offseason and the kind of shape he keeps himself in.”

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With the deadline for tagged players to receive a new contract passed (July 15), Berry can’t get a long-term deal until after the Chiefs’ season ends. He’ll play 2016 on the $10.806 million tag.

The team signed former Seahawks and Redskins backstop Jeron Johnson on Friday, the Chiefs announced. NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport first reported the move.

Johnson was on the team’s radar after visiting the Chiefs in March. The 28-year-old safety was released by the Redskins this offseason after playing just 195 snaps for Washington in 2015. He spent the previous four campaigns as a role player for the Seahawks.

With 60 appearances but just two starts as a pro, Johnson can’t mask the loss of Berry, who chose not to report to camp after failing to reach a long-term deal with the club prior to the July 15 deadline for franchise-tagged players.

Ron Parker, Jamell Fleming, Daniel Sorensen and Stevie Brown have all seen safety snaps during camp, but Johnson gives the club an extra body to use during practice and preseason games. He’s no sure bet to make the team once Berry returns, but the Pro Bowler’s absence has given Johnson another shot at making an NFL roster.