KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Quarterback Brodie Croyle is back after a four-week absence and will start for Kansas City in its next game against Tennessee on Oct. 19.
Since sustaining a separated shoulder in the Sept. 7 season opener at New England, Croyle has seen the Chiefs go 1-4.
Neither Damon Huard nor Tyler Thigpen, who have both started in his absence, has been able to generate any consistency for a young, rebuilding squad that has 16 rookies and hit a three-year low on Sunday in a 34-0 shutout at Carolina. The Chiefs have a bye this week.
"If I'm ready to go, I assume they'll start me," Croyle said Monday. "As long as I can prove that over the next two weeks, I'll be ready."
Coach Herm Edwards said the job will belong to Croyle "unless we have something go haywire with him."
"He's ready to go," Edwards said.
Kansas City's designated quarterback of the future, Croyle is still looking for his first NFL victory after seven injury-plagued starts.
The Chiefs, hoping to groom a championship-caliber team from the ground up, are getting impatient with Croyle's inability to stay on the field and may go shopping for a new young quarterback if he goes down again.
"The quarterback has to be out there. He has to play," Croyle said. "And I haven't been there. Obviously, when I get back, it's vital for me to stay healthy and vital for me to try find a way to help this team win."
But Croyle said he will force himself not to think about the need to stay healthy.
"You can't play hesitant," he said. "You have to play. As soon as you start holding things back, bad things happen."
Edwards is not giving the Chiefs the whole week off. Just seven days after beating previously unbeaten Denver at home and snapping a 12-game losing streak, Kansas City had one of its worst games in a decade at Carolina, a misadventure fraught with mental mistakes and physical breakdowns.
Larry Johnson, after running for 198 yards against Denver, was held to 2 yards on seven carries against the Panthers. Altogether, the defense gave up 441 yards, including 205 on the ground.
The score could easily have been more lopsided if Carolina coach John Fox, a former teammate of Edwards at San Diego State, had not spent most of the fourth quarter simply running between the tackles.
After taking Tuesday off, the Chiefs will get back to work on Wednesday and Thursday.
"We just have to get going again," said Croyle. "We've got to get everything rolling, get everybody back on the same page. We're going to be here all week practicing. It's a good time to have [the bye week]. We've had our good moments, we've had our bad. We just need to build off the good and be more consistent."
Getting Croyle back could provide an emotional lift for the demoralized Chiefs, Edwards agreed.
"But you can't put it all on him, though," Edwards said. "We feel he can do some things for us and it's good to have him back. They've got to put some of it on themselves, though. They can't just expect him to ride in on a white horse. We're hoping he can stay healthy and help us win some games. He's capable of doing that."
Edwards also agreed the week off is coming at a good time.
"Absolutely. These young guys have already played nine game in their minds if you also look at the preseason," he said. "So this gives us a chance to regroup. The coaches can now look at some tape. We'll self-scout ourselves and look at the things we've done well and continue to try to do those things."