Kansas City Chiefs safety Juan Thornhill suffered a torn ACL in Week 17 of the NFL season and made it back for the first game of the 2020 season. In recent weeks, however, Thornhill's workload has fluctuated for the first time.
In Week 1, Thornhill played 64% of the Chiefs' defensive snaps. In the next five weeks, Thornhill played in at least 90% of the defense’s snaps. In Weeks 7, 8 and 9, he played between 68% and 84% of the snaps before playing just 11% against the Raiders in Week 11, then returning to 69% in Week 12.
Thornhill discussed the correlation between his varying workload and his continuing ACL recovery during a virtual press conference Thursday.
“With the bye week we had time with Spags [Steve Spagnuolo],” Thornhill said. “He watched film, I watched film and he kind of wished we would’ve taken it a little slower earlier this season because we limited my reps maybe the first game. Then after that, I was just out there going 100%, pretty much.”
Thornhill's fellow safeties Tyrann Mathieu and Daniel Sorensen have both out-snapped Thornhill in 2020, recording 709 and 609 plays to Thornhill's 592, respectively.
“I’ve had some bumps in the road just because of the fact that it’s not something you can just get out there and be 100% after an ACL injury, but I’m definitely getting back to myself,” Thornhill said. “I can feel myself running a lot faster, breaking a lot better and becoming more confident as I’m on the field so I’m definitely getting back to where I was.”
Thornhill has recorded 28 tackles this year, compared to the 43 tackles he racked up through the first 11 weeks of the 2019 season along with one interception and pass defended in 2020 after grabbing one interception and defending three passes through the first 11 games of his rookie season.
Thornhill admitted he didn’t anticipate the reduced workload but said it could be the key to returning to playmaker status.
“I didn’t expect to have to be a guy that plays a lesser role in our defense,” Thornhill said. “It’s not something I’m super down on because I’m going to keep working regardless, and when it’s my time to step in there and play, I’m going to go in there and make a play. Like I said, hopefully I’ll get back out there real soon.”