Turley poised for comeback pending physical

Updated: June 11, 2006, 4:10 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Former standout blocker Kyle Turley, who hasn't played in a game since a 2003 playoff loss because of severe back problems, is poised to make his NFL comeback.

Turley, 30, has reached an agreement in principle with the Kansas City Chiefs on a multiyear contract, a source close to him confirmed Sunday afternoon, but financial details of the deal were not immediately available. The seven-year veteran must still pass a physical examination for the Chiefs, which is scheduled for Monday, and which figures to be extensive given his medical background.

If he passes the physical, Turley will sign and begin working out with the Chiefs this week.

In a surprising twist, Turley, who had originally planned to return as a tight end, a position he has never played at the NFL level, is expected to play tackle for the Chiefs. Team officials have discussed with him returning to his old right tackle spot, where he could challenge for a starting job. The Chiefs might still deploy Turley as a tight end in short-yardage situations.

The other candidates at right tackle include John Welbourn, Kevin Sampson and Jordan Black.

Whether Turley can return to tackle, and at his previous performance level -- when he was regarded as one of the NFL's best strong-side blockers -- might be a factor of how much he weighs now. His typical playing weight was 309 pounds, but it is believed Turley dropped 40-50 pounds to relieve some of the stress on his back, and might actually have to gain some weight back to be effective again.

Last month, Turley participated in a Miami Dolphins' minicamp as an unsigned invitee. He also worked out for the Chiefs and, in recent days, drew interest from the Denver Broncos as well.

After two years away from the game, the former first-round draft choice, who missed only one regular-season contest before his back woes sidelined him, was determined to get back into the league.

The former San Diego State star was released by the Rams in June 2005 after he failed a team-administered physical examination. Turley missed the entire 2004 season when his back problem flared during training camp and he was placed on injured reserve.

Turley has been treated for more than two years now by Dr. Robert Watkins, a renowned Los Angeles back specialist who performed surgery on a herniated disc in March 2004. He reinjured his back four months later and eschewed a second surgery, preferring instead to go through a long rehabilitation that included shedding considerable weight.

During his rehabilitation, Turley originally suggested that he might return to the league as a defensive end. He had decided, it seemed, that he needed to play a position which placed fewer demands on his back, and at which he did not need to carry as much bulk.

Throughout his recovery, Turley has been adamant he would not retire, and remained optimistic that he could someday return to football.

His last game action came Jan. 10, 2004, when the Rams lost to the Carolina Panthers in double overtime of a divisional round playoff game. Turley played in all 16 regular-season games in 2003. Over six years, Turley appeared in 95 regular-season games, all of them as a starter.

The seventh overall pick in the 1998 draft, Turley played six seasons with the New Orleans Saints, and then was traded to the Rams in the spring of 2003.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here Insider.