Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on Friday answered the question that was on every Kansas City fan’s mind ahead of the team’s AFC champion matchup against the Bills:
Mahomes said he’ll be able to play Sunday after suffering a concussion in the Chiefs’ AFC divisional round win over the Browns.
“We have the belief that I’ll have no lingering effects and I’ll be able to go out there and be who I am,” Mahomes told reporters Friday (via ESPN’s Adam Teicher). “You can only control what you can control. For me, that was coming in every day with a positive attitude, trying to make myself better, trying to prepare as if I was going to play. Luckily enough, I haven’t had any symptoms and I’m able to play.”
Mahomes’ availability was far from certain in the moments and days after the divisional round win; the fourth-year quarterback was clearly dazed after getting tackled by Browns linebacker Mack Wilson. That he can return to play is a big deal for the Chiefs as they take on a good Buffalo team. A win would put Kansas City in the Super Bowl for the second consecutive year..
Here’s everything you need to know about Mahomes’ return to play after clearing concussion protocol:
How long was Patrick Mahomes out?
Mahomes was concussed at roughly the halfway mark of the third quarter in last Sunday’s game. On the play — a designed quarterback run — Wilson brought Mahomes down short of the line to gain; it’s uncertain what caused the concussion itself, but it may have been when Mahomes’ head hit the turf and briefly contacted Wilson’s own helmet.
Still, coach Andy Reid and the team were optimistic that Mahomes could return in time to play in the AFC championship game.
“He’s doing great now, which is a real positive as we looked at this. He passed all the deals that he needed to pass, so we’ll see where it goes from here.”
Reid (via ESPN) said Mahomes took all the snaps during the Chiefs’ Wednesday practice, and the majority of snaps during the Thursday practice.
Mahomes said on Friday that he’ll be able to play on Sunday, so that brings the total number of days he was in concussion protocol to five, starting the Monday after he was initially concussed. There is no league mandate on the minimum number of days Mahomes must undergo concussion protocol.
Mahomes has one recorded concussion in his playing career. That came in 2014, while he played quarterback for Texas Tech. He didn’t return to the game in which he was injured, though the Red Raiders had a bye the next week. He played when the team returned to play the following week.
NFL concussion protocol, explained
Mahomes needed to clear a five-step protocol, developed in 2011 by the NFL Head, Neck and Spine Committee. Below is the full phase-by-phase process, including official wording from the latest revisions in July 2020:
Phase 1: Symptom Limited Activity
The player is prescribed rest, limiting or, if necessary, avoiding activities (both physical and cognitive) which increase or aggravate symptoms. Under athletic training staff supervision, limited stretching and balance training can be introduced, progressing to light aerobic exercise, all as tolerated.
Phase 2: Aerobic Exercise
Under direct oversight of the team’s medical staff, the player should begin graduated cardiovascular exercise and may also engage in dynamic stretching and balance training. Neurocognitive and balance testing can be administered after completion of Phase Two and the results should be interpreted as back to baseline.
Phase 3: Football Specific Exercise
The player continues with supervised cardiovascular exercises that are increased and may mimic sport-specific activities, and supervised strength training is introduced. The player is allowed to practice with the team in sport-specific exercise for 30 minutes or less with ongoing and careful monitoring.
Phase 4: Club-Based Non-Contact Training Drills
The player continues cardiovascular, strength and balance training, team-based sport-specific exercise, and participates in non-contact football activities (e.g. throwing, catching, running, and other position-specific activities). Neurocognitive and balance testing should be completed no later than the end of Phase Four with the results interpreted as back to baseline.
Phase 5: Full Football Activity/Clearance
Upon clearance by the Club physician for full football activity involving contact, the player must be examined by the Independent Neurological Consultant (INC) assigned to his Club. If the INC concurs with the Club physician that the player’s concussion has resolved, he may participate in his Club’s next practice or game.
Who cleared Patrick Mahomes from concussion protocol?
Per Phase 5 of the league’s return-to-play protocol, Mahomes needed to be cleared by both the Chiefs’ medical staff and an independent neurologist. That could only happen after clearing the first four phases of the protocol.