Charles, Berry progressing as Chiefs get on field for offseason workouts

Monday, May 21, 2012 | 9:38 p.m. CDT

KANSAS CITY — When the whistle blew, Jamaal Charles and Eric Berry headed off to the corner of the far practice field while the rest of the Kansas City Chiefs began a full-squad practice.

In many ways it looked like last season, when the speedy running back and play-making safety were recovering from torn ligaments in their left knees. The difference this time was that Charles and Berry were dressed in shorts and jerseys and appeared on the cusp of returning.

That alone made the first in a series of organized team activities a success.

"I'm excited. Jamaal has made tremendous progress," quarterback Matt Cassel said. "Every day he's been working out in the weight room and doing tremendous things already."

Charles and Berry weren't alone in doing rehab work. Tight end Tony Moeaki is also coming back from a torn ACL. Defensive back DeQuan Menzie hurt his hamstring during a recent rookie minicamp, safety Kendrick Lewis is still working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery and linebacker Brandon Siler from a torn Achilles tendon.

That made six players expected to contribute heavily next season off to the side.

Then there was wide receiver Dwayne Bowe. The Chiefs have until July 16 to sign him to a long-term contract; otherwise, he'll play next season under the franchise tag.

All the players sitting out gave others an opportunity to shine.

Jonathan Baldwin, the Chiefs' first-round pick last season, spent most of the workout running with the first team offense in place of Bowe. He made a couple of nifty grabs off of throws from Cassel, one of them on a deep route down the left sideline when he was tightly covered.

"I'm going to continue to do the best I can do," said Baldwin, deftly sidestepping any talk about Bowe's absence. "I don't know anything about that, so I'm just going to do the best I can."

All the injuries at defensive back gave guys like Terrance Parks an opportunity.

He was signed as an undrafted free agent out of Florida State and found himself running with the first team defense for part of practice, something that first-round draft pick Dontari Poe couldn't pull off in his first organized workout.

Every time Parks stepped off the field, though, Berry and Lewis were right in his ear.

"They know what they're doing," Parks said. "They're that way with all the rookies."

The rookies will certainly have ample opportunity to shine during three weeks of workouts, all leading up to the Chiefs' mandatory minicamp in June. But for the time being, all eyes are on the guys over on a side practice field who are trying to work back from injuries.

Charles has said he'll be 100 percent for training camp after tearing his ACL in Week 2 last season. He was coming off a breakthrough year in which he ran for more than 1,400 yards.

Berry was coming off a Pro Bowl rookie season when he tore his ACL in Week 1, while Moeaki was coming off his own promising rookie season when he tore his ACL in his preseason finale.

Lewis was hurt in the Chiefs' regular-season finale, and although he played through the injury, it required surgery a short time later. He doesn't know when the training staff will clear him to play, but he expects it to be soon.

"Everything is going cool, according to plan, so whenever they release me," Lewis said. "It's real frustrating, because I love the game. We've been away from it so long. You see guys out there, going to work, having fun, and you think, 'Man, I wish I could be out there.'"

Cassel was back working with the first-team offense after his own season-ending injury.

The former Pro Bowl quarterback showed no sign of the injury to his throwing hand sustained midseason against Denver. Cassel had plenty of zip on his passes and appeared to be grasping the playbook put together by new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll.

"We've been working really hard out there," he said. "We've had limited on-field work, but we've been in the film room studying our butts off. It's been good to get out there and kind of compete against each other and put what we've learned on the field."

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