Sanders Commings trudged around the practice fields Wednesday, glumly watching with his left arm in a sling.
The Kansas City Chiefs defensive back suffered a major setback to the start of his NFL career the day before, breaking his left clavicle during the first day of early workouts for rookies, quarterbacks and eligible veterans. Jumping to defend a pass Tuesday, Commings landed awkwardly on his left shoulder.
Later in the day, the Chiefs confirmed the severity of the injury.
What comes next for Commings? A recovery period of multiple weeks and uncertainty for his future in Kansas City.
Second-year wide receiver Junior Hemingway knows what can happen when a late-round pick misses significant training camp time. He suffered a groin injury early in the Chiefs’ 2012 St. Joseph stay and wound up on the practice squad for the entire season.
“It’s a process,” Hemingway said. “I didn’t know I was going to be on the practice squad all year. You need to take it how it is and keep going. When it’s your time to come, make sure you’re there, make sure you make plays and make sure you’re in the right spot at the right time.”
Expected to transition from cornerback to safety, the depth in the defensive backfield takes a hit after Commings’ injury.
Husain Abdullah, Quintin Demps, Tysyn Hartman and Neiko Thorpe assume top billing in the battle to backup projected starters Eric Berry and Kendrick Lewis. High-profile free agent cornerback Dunta Robinson could factor into the safety spot as well.
A fifth-round draft pick this past spring, Commings came into the three early practices as the best shot to make the Chiefs roster in a defensive back pool of six inexperienced players.
When the full team makes it to camp by Thursday, Commings’ plight only worsens. DeQuan Menzie’s story from last year provides the best example of one way an injury can cause an early derailment.
Menzie came to the Chiefs in the fifth round of the 2012 draft, like Commings a defensive back who played for an SEC power — Menzie at Alabama, Commings at Georgia. Menzie suffered a hip injury and missed the majority of the preseason, which concluded with him going on injured reserve in the last round of transactions before the regular season started.
A safety expected to transition to corner, Menzie never made the roster with the Chiefs, who cut him this past May.
“Every year everyone’s fighting for a spot,” said Chiefs tight end Tony Moeaki, a fourth-year player with 76 career catches who joins training camp after recovering from an offseason knee injury for the second straight year.
Proving worth is decidedly harder for a player without past success in the NFL like Commings. Menzie signed in the offseason with the Detroit Lions, but his process of making an active roster starts all over again in the same place it began as a rookie with the Chiefs.