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Chris Jones could be calling Arrowhead home for final time Saturday

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — There was always the hope, and perhaps even the expectation, that Chris Jones would still be wearing a Kansas City Chiefs jersey this season when he walked out of Arrowhead Stadium following their victory in the AFC championship game last year.

Jones was entering the final year of his contract, and his representatives had been talking with the Chiefs for more than a year about a long-term deal.

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The five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle was coming off his finest season, matching a career-high with 15 1/2 sacks, and was about to lead the Chiefs into the Super Bowl for the third time — and win his second title.

None of that worked out how anyone envisioned, though. And now Jones is much less certain about his future in Kansas City as the Chiefs prepare to play the Miami Dolphins on Saturday night in a Wildcard playoff game.

Even if the Chiefs win, it could be their last game at Arrowhead Stadium this season.

“If it is, it is. If it’s not, it’s not,” Jones said. “You can’t think about what-ifs. You can’t think about the future. Things change by the day. You just got to roll with the punches in life.”

“They give you lemons, make lemonade. Right now, we’re trying to make lemonade out of this, man. We got an exciting Dolphins team coming. We’re slowly knocking off the goals we had.”

First was winning the AFC West for the eighth consecutive season, which the Chiefs did with a week left in the regular season, allowing them to rest the majority of their starters for a 13-12 victory over the Chargers last weekend.

But after failing to agree to that long-term deal, the reworked contract that Jones signed for this season — after holding out all of training camp and through Week 1 — was laden with incentives.

One of them was a $1.25 million bonus for reaching 10 sacks, and the gregarious defensive tackle from Mississippi State needed a half against the Chargers to reach it.

So he asked Chiefs coach Andy Reid to play. Then asked to keep playing when he continually pressured Chargers quarterback Easton Stick but kept coming up short.

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And when he finally got that sack late in the game, the wild celebration that it triggered on the Kansas City sideline proved just how much it meant to Jones, and how much Jones means to his team.

“They were all on board pulling for him,” Reid said. “That’s kind of the neat thing about that.”

Jones said afterward that he would reward his fellow defensive linemen with Rolex watches.

Whether it is in Kansas City or elsewhere, he should have plenty of money to buy them come the start of next season.

The 29-year-old Jones is due to hit free agency, and while the Chiefs could conceivably use the franchise tag on him, the cost of that would be prohibitive.

They have several others that they hope to keep on the roster, including lockdown cornerback L’Jarius Sneed, and the salary cap hit for quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be steadily increasing.

So the most likely scenario is that Jones signs elsewhere in free agency, and that means he could be preparing for his final walk out of the Arrowhead Stadium tunnel on Saturday night.

He will no doubt be warmly received by Chiefs fans — despite wind chills expected to be well below zero — before taking on the Dolphins to kick off the postseason.

“You usually reflect after, right? After it’s all done, you reflect on what’s the next chapter for you, for the team,” Jones said.

“Trying to think about it — it could be my last game at Arrowhead — who knows? But most importantly, we’ve got a game to play, try to make a deep run in the playoffs. If it is my last game, have to make it worthwhile.”

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The Chiefs took their kickers from their practice facility to Arrowhead Stadium on Wednesday to get a feel for kicking there in cold, snowy weather.

“Today (Wednesday) is like nothing compared to what we’re going to get,” Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub said. “We’re going to go outside and it’s 30 (degrees) or something. 8 p.m. (on Saturday night) is different.”

INJURIES:

  • LT Wanya Morris (concussion) did not practice Wednesday.

  • WR Justyn Ross (neck) was back after missing the previous day.

  • LT Donovan Smith (neck) also practiced for the second straight day.

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