KANSAS CITY — The Chiefs are down to their backup quarterback for the second year in a row.
Matt Cassel suffered a concussion in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game against Baltimore and is unlikely to play in next weekend's game at Tampa Bay, which means Brady Quinn is preparing to start an NFL game for the first time in nearly three years.
Cassel was hit by the Ravens' Haloti Ngata while completing a pass to Jamaal Charles in the Chiefs' 9-6 loss. He remained on the ground for several minutes before walking off the field and straight to the locker room. Quinn finished out Kansas City's final offensive series.
"Some individuals recover faster than others," Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said, "but with the emphasis on concussions in the league, they're making sure we do due diligence with the player's health, making sure he's not rushed back, so we'll see."
Crennel didn't officially rule Cassel out against the Buccaneers, but he said that Quinn and third-string quarterback Ricky Stanzi would be preparing to play.
"That's one of the good things about having three quarterbacks on the roster," Crennel said. "If you lose one, at least you still have two guys, and you don't have to go trying to pick someone up off the street. You have guys who have been in the system."
That was the predicament the Chiefs found themselves in last season.
Cassel hurt his throwing hand against the Denver Broncos last November, undergoing surgery and landing on injured reserve. Tyler Palko was an abject failure starting in his place, and the Chiefs wound up claiming Kyle Orton off waivers to finish out the season.
The move to Quinn may have happened eventually even if Cassel hadn't been hurt.
The former Pro Bowl quarterback has struggled mightily the past two seasons, and his troubles this year have been especially glaring. Cassel was only completing 58.5 percent of his passes and had thrown five touchdowns and a league-leading nine interceptions.
His quarterback rating of 66.2 is the lowest since he became a starter in New England.
That's part of the reason some intrepid fans raised enough money to hire a plane to tow a banner before Sunday's game pleading for Cassel to be benched, and why a small segment of the crowd at Arrowhead Stadium cheered when he got hurt — drawing the ire of right tackle Eric Winston and his teammates, and touching off a national debate about uncouth behavior of some fans.
Winston called the cheering "100-percent sickening" after the game and stood by his opinion during a meeting with a few reporters Monday. But he also made sure to clarify that he wasn't talking about all Kansas City fans, just those who were cheering for Cassel's injury.
"It might have been 7,000, might have been 700, but it was still too many," Winston said. "I was directing those comments at a few people, and when I say a few people, I do mean a few people, because I don't think it was the majority of people or even the vast minority of people."
Quinn only threw three passes against the Ravens, but he completed all of them for 32 yards.
He also had a completed pass to Dwayne Bowe for a go-ahead touchdown that was called back because of an illegal pick set by wide receiver Dexter McCluster. The Chiefs were forced to kick a field goal and never got the ball back as Baltimore ran out the clock.
Quinn's last start, coincidentally, came at Arrowhead Stadium as a member of the Browns.
He threw for 66 yards and two interceptions in a 41-34 victory on Dec. 20, 2009. Quinn was hurt during the game and missed the rest of the season and hadn't played in a regular-season game again until pressed into duty Sunday against Baltimore.
"It felt great to be out there, was comfortable being at home, being on the field, but right now I'm just here to support my teammates," Quinn said after Sunday's game. "Matt is our starter, and I just prepare every week like I am a starter, and I prepare myself for the moment."
The former first-round draft pick has started 12 of the 15 games he's played in over the past four-plus seasons, going just 3-9 — though part of his modest success has to do with his supporting cast in Cleveland, a franchise that was going through a major rebuilding project.
The biggest criticism of him has been his consistency. During his final season as a starter, he had a two-week stretch where he threw for 99 yards and two interceptions against Baltimore and then threw for 304 yards and four touchdowns without an interception against Denver.
"When he goes into the game, he needs to function," Crennel said. "That's how you try to build your team. That's why you have enough guys, so when a guy gets banged up, you can put another guy in who can step up to the plate and get something done."