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Patrick Mahomes Injury Update: Will concussion keep him out of AFC Conference Championship?

After being placed in the NFL’s concussion protocol, Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes has an uphill battle in order to play in the AFC Championship.

Patrick Mahomes Injury Update: Will concussion keep him out of AFC Conference Championship?
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - JANUARY 17: Quarterback Patrick Mahomes #15 of the Kansas City Chiefs scrambles against the defense of the Cleveland Browns during the secondquarter of the AFC Divisional Playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium on January 17, 2021 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Heading into the AFC Championship Game, the status of arguably the NFL‘s brightest star remains uncertain at this point. Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes is in the NFL’s concussion protocol and remains questionable to suit up as they take on the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at 6:40 PM ET. For Mahomes to play, he will need to clear several hurdles, with a spot to defend their Super Bowl title on the line.

Update January 22: NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport is reporting that Patrick Mahomes has said he’s been cleared from NFL’s concussion protocol.

Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes suffered an apparent concussion against the Cleveland Browns

The Kansas City Chiefs are going to the AFC Championship Game for the third time in three years. Yet, they could be doing so without the highest-paid athlete in North American sports history under center.

Related | AFC Championship Preview: Kansas City Chiefs

Midway through the third quarter, Patrick Mahomes scrambled on a third-down run. It was about as typical of a play as you will find from the 25-year-old MVP candidate. What followed was anything but ordinary. Mahomes was tackled and driven down by Cleveland Browns LB Mack Wilson. When Mahomes tried to get up, that was when alarms were sounded. To everyone watching, the severity of the situation was put into full perspective. 

Mahomes could not get his legs stable underneath him. Teammates held him up until doctors could get onto the field and help escort him off. He was immediately taken into the blue pop-up tent on the sidelines. Shortly thereafter, sideline reporter CBS sideline reporter Tracy Wolfson announced Mahomes was being evaluated for a concussion. 

Not long after, cameras showed Mahomes running back to the locker room to undergo further testing.

Patrick Mahomes is in the NFL’s concussion protocol

According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, who was on Good Morning Football on Monday morning, Patrick Mahomes is in the NFL’s concussion protocol. However, it didn’t seem to come from a hit to his head, making the injury so much stranger. 

According to Carrington Harrison of the CBS Sports KC, Mahomes passed his concussion tests following the game, and it was a nerve in his neck that was tweaked, which caused the symptoms to mirror those of a concussion. 

However, this does not make the subsequent steps to getting back on the field any different. He still needs to clear the league-mandated hurdles first.

The steps Patrick Mahomes must clear in the NFL’s concussion protocol

While we all hear the term, the process is never fully explained. The details can be found on the NFL’s site under Player Health & Safety, but here is a brief synopsis of what hurdles face Patrick Mahomes.

  1. The player rests until signs and symptoms return to baseline status and undergo neurological, cognitive, and balance tests
  2. The player begins cardio exercise and/or stretching and balance training under the oversight of the team’s medical staff
  3. Player increases exercises and/or sport-specific activities and begins supervised strength training
  4. The player continues training and resumes non-contact football activities (e.g., throwing, running, etc.)
  5. The player is cleared by the team physician for full contact and passes an independent neurological exam, then returns to practice

When do the Chiefs have to decide on Patrick Mahomes?

Technically, the choice is out of their hands until the independent doctors give him Patrick Mahomes the all-clear to return. Luckily for the Chiefs, he doesn’t need to practice to play against the Bills. He could clear the first four phases of the protocols, and the team could wait until 90 minutes before kickoff when inactives must be announced. 

What do the Chiefs do if Patrick Mahomes does not clear concussion protocol?

If they are forced to play without someone who is on a trajectory to be the greatest to ever play in the biggest game of the season, that is a massive blow. Regardless of how good both head coach Andy Reid and OC Eric Bieniemy are at scheming, there are things Mahomes can do that no other human can pull off.

Though, it must be said what Chad Henne did to end the game was up there in recent memorable performances. After the Browns made it a one-score game, Henne scrambled 13 yards on 3rd and 14 to give the Chiefs a choice on 4th and short. Then, Andy Ried made a gutsy call to go for it on 4th & 1 when it seemed they were only trying to draw the Browns offside. Henne completed the pass to Tyreek Hill for five yards to seal the 22-15 victory. 

He finished the day going 6 of 8 for 66 yards and an interception. If Kansas City hopes to get back to the Super Bowl, having Patrick Mahomes back to square off against makes life a whole lot easier. 

Want more NFL news and analysis?

Be sure to follow us on Twitter (@PFN365) to stay up to date with all things around the NFL. Also, continue to visit Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis concerning the 2020 season and beyond.

Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football. You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.

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