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Chiefs Injury Report: Hitchens Out, Others Hopeful vs. Titans

The Kansas City Chiefs have ruled out a key defensive player for Sunday's matchup with the Tennessee Titans, but other starters returned to practice on Friday.

The Kansas City Chiefs will be without their top defensive signal-caller when they face the Tennesee Titans this Sunday, adding another challenge to an already steep assignment against Derrick Henry and company.

Chiefs head coach Andy Reid ruled out veteran linebacker Anthony Hitchens on Friday, as he did not practice all week with a tricep injury suffered in the Chiefs' game against the Washington Football Team.

On Thursday, Nate Taylor of The Athletic reported that Hitchens had his right arm in a sling, an early sign that his return to play would likely not be immediate.

Without Hitchens, the Chiefs will lean heavily on their top three remaining linebackers: veteran Ben Niemann, second-year linebacker Willie Gay Jr. and rookie Nick Bolton.

During his Thursday press conference, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo discussed what the defense could look like without Hitchens and how they managed defensively after Hitchens left the game against Washington. Spagnuolo explained that Niemann, Gay and Bolton could all potentially make Kansas City's calls as the defensive player with the NFL's signature green dot on the back of their helmet, marking the player who has the one in-helmet speaker allowed on the field at a time.

Niemann, the most senior of the group, may have an advantage due to his time in Spagnuolo's defense, but Spagnuolo also noted that the Chiefs ran one play with just Gay and Bolton on the field as the team's two linebackers before Hitchens's injury on Sunday, leaving the door open for a mix-and-match approach against the Titans.

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On the plus side for Kansas City, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and guard Joe Thuney returned to practice after missing Wednesday and Thursday's practice. 

Defensive lineman Chris Jones, tight end Travis Kelce, cornerback Charvarius Ward and safety Tyrann Mathieu were all limited participants on Wednesday and Thursday, leaving their status up in the air for Sunday's game. Reid struck an optimistic tone on this group during his Friday press conference.

Who's most likely to play?

Let's enter "educated guessing" territory. Hill and Thuney both played with their respective injuries against Washington, then returned to practice on Friday. That's a strong sign that they'll be good to give it a go against the Titans, in addition to Reid saying they "should be fine" after practice on Friday. Mathieu and Kelce finished the game against Washington, so they both seem likely to start as well. (Kelce also spoke to the media on Thursday, another positive sign.) This group should be active on Sunday, barring setbacks.

Jones and Ward were both close to being available last week, according to Reid, but it's hard to gauge how close and also how much they could play this week. Reid said on Friday that he thinks "all is good" after a full practice for both players. Jones and Ward also seem likely to play based on Reid's comments, but could have more questions than the previous group.

Officially, Hill, Thuney, Jones and Ward are all questionable.

Fullback Michael Burton did not practice this week due to his pectoral injury and tight end Jody Forston is still on the active roster despite undergoing surgery on his Achilles tendon earlier this week. Fortson's placement on the injury report is a roster formality until he's placed on injured reserve. Fortson and Burton are out.

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