Chiefs Predicted to Rest 2-Time Champ on Practice Squad Until Playoff Push

The Kansas City Chiefs finished with an impressive 6-1 record in games that veteran defensive tackle Mike Pennel appeared in last season, including the 4-0 Super Bowl run. And that’s no coincidence.

The Chiefs defense has had a hard time slowing down powerful rushing attacks in recent years and the veteran nose tackle was able to help with that issue down the stretch — even if it didn’t always show up on the stat sheet.

Of course, KC also made sure not to overuse Pennel, who just turned 33 years old in May. The 10-year NFL pro and two-time Chiefs champion typically logged less than 35% of snaps when he was active for a game in 2023. Outside of the Super Bowl and the divisional round versus the Buffalo Bills, where he played over 50% of snaps.

After signing him in October, Kansas City also kept Pennel fresh by keeping him on the practice squad until December — a “load management” strategy that Chiefs Digest beat writer Matt Derrick believes KC could deploy again in 2024.

Chiefs predicted to use load management plan for vet DT Mike Pennel.

“I have Pennel as a projected practice squad player,” Derrick revealed on the June 23 episode of the “41 is the Mic” podcast.

“Remember, as a veteran, he’s got contract prerogative,” the Kansas City media member explained. “When they cut down players, he doesn’t go on waivers, he becomes a free agent that can sign anywhere. And Mike Pennel doesn’t really want to go anywhere [else]. He wants to be in KC — but he’s 33 years old.

“I think you saw the best of Mike Pennel last year and you saw it because he was limited until late in the season… they kind of saved him up.”

Derrick rounded out his point by suggesting that the Chiefs could do that again this season. Store Pennel on the practice squad — where he’s protected as a vested veteran. Keep him fresh. And then either elevate him or sign him to the 53-man roster when he’s needed from November through the postseason.

“I don’t think you want Mike Pennel having to play 20 or 21 games,” the reporter concluded. Voicing that his “ideal” load management plan saves him for the back half of the campaign.

Chiefs Have Gotten Creative With Vested Veterans in the Past

If general manager Brett Veach and head coach Andy Reid worked out an agreement with Pennel where he begins the season on the practice squad, it wouldn’t be the first time the Chiefs used the vested veteran rules to their advantage.

We’ve seen this franchise cut contributors like tightend Blake Bell, only to re-sign them after shifting prospects and younger assets to the injured reserve. Call it creative roster gymnastics. Every organization can do it, but KC’s winning culture generally keeps their vested vets more interested in playing along.

In Pennel’s case, it’d be a longer stay on the practice squad than most. But if the D-tackle is onboard with the gameplan, why not?

Derrick’s theory would put less strain on Pennel’s body, while likely paying him a similar amount at the end of the day.

Chiefs DL Room Is ‘Wide Open’ Heading Into Training Camp

This Pennel discussion was part of a larger conversation between Derrick and KSHB41 beat reporter Nick Jacobs. The pair broke down roster locks and bubble candidates on the defensive line, and as they immediately noted, that’s not an easy area to predict this summer.

“Outside of the top six players on the defensive line, it’s wide open to me,” Derrick began. Jacobs seemed to agree for the most part, although the two reporters disagreed on the sixth member of that group.

Both labeled Chris Jones, George Karlaftis, Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Mike Danna and Tershawn Wharton roster locks. However, while Derrick put Derrick Nnadi on in favor of Pennel, Jacobs went with Pennel over Nnadi.

The latter did admit that Derrick’s load management plan for Pennel was possible though.

Either way, there are a lot of jobs up for grabs. Charles Omenihu could start the season on the PUP list recovering from a torn ACL, Nnadi is returning from an arm injury and BJ Thompson’s health status is up in the air after a scary seizure at practice.

Then there are several bubble candidates competing for roles, including Malik Herring, Neil Farrell, Truman Jones, Matt Dickerson, and UDFAs Fabien Lovett and Alex Gubner.

Lovett, in particular, has been highlighted as a prospect to monitor in camp. Jacobs said that he was “intrigued by” the rookie DT during “41 is the Mic,” but caveated that by adding that he needs to see Lovett practice with the pads on before he can get a good read on his chances.

This should be a fun roster battle to watch this summer, and Pennel’s unique situation makes it even more interesting come roster cuts.

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