Andy Reid has yet to use the word “concussion’’ regarding Patrick Mahomes. Protocols? Yes. But not concussion. He has neatly avoided it. But why?
Reid, the Kansas City Chiefs coach, hasn’t said “Our quarterback has a concussion’’ or “Our quarterback does not have a concussion.’’ Or even this: “We are checking to see if Patrick has a concussion. We will take good care of him and do the right thing.’’
We saw Patrick Mahomes jog off the field Sunday a few minutes after he had a hard time standing and walking. Reports everywhere said he had a concussion. He missed the rest of the game. But then he tweeted happily after the Chiefs beat Cleveland 22-17 to advance to the AFC Championship Game.
At the time, Reid said: “He got hit in the back of the head and kind of knocked the wind out of him and everything else with it. He’s doing great right now, which is a real positive as we looked at this. Passed all the deals that he needed to pass so we’ll see where it goes from here.’’
The deals? What deals? Concussion deals? What is going on here? Are Reid, the Chiefs and the NFL up to something?
We should openly worry about what is going to happen to Mahomes now. Otherwise, we’d have to suspend disbelief about seeing him on wobbly legs, glassy eyes and everything else that we’ve been taught about concussion symptoms. It will be easier for him to be cleared and publicly accepted Sunday if we spend the whole week in denial. On the other hand, we’ve seen plenty of examples of players knocked down, then pop back up and be fine.
Maybe that’s what happened with Mahomes. But concussions and the NFL are a serious issue, and at this point we need honest talk from the Chiefs, not word games.
It’s already hard enough to trust the NFL when it comes to concussions. It spent too many years giving guys smelling salts and telling them to get back in there. Repercussions came years later, when the players weren’t drawing TV ratings anymore. We’d like to think times have changed.
But in a season that was played to make TV networks happy, despite the uncertain risks of COVID-19, are we sure that Mahomes will not just be thrown in next week to win a football game, draw big ratings and add to the hype of the Super Bowl?
Rumors are already flying about — or maybe they’re reports. It’s hard to tell the difference sometimes. A radio guy named Carrington Harrison at 610-AM in Kansas City tweeted that an unnamed source had told him, “Patrick passed all of his tests last night. He didn’t actually hit his head, there was a nerve in his neck that got tweaked that made him out of it. He’s getting testing done on his neck/nerve today but did clear all tests last night.’’
Harrison did not say what tests he was talking about or give any information about what he considers a source. The Kansas City Star is trying to verify or clarify Harrison, whose own station hasn’t posted anything on its site about breaking the story about Mahomes. I called Harrison’s radio station. No one answered.
Star columnist Vahe Gregorian has tweeted only this about Mahomes today: “Not surprisingly, Reid says Mahomes in protocols and will be evaluated over next few days. . .’’
The Chiefs are talking around this, and that just leads to suspicion.
There were encouraging signs this weekend from the NFL that maybe times have changed. Mahomes didn’t return to the game. A day earlier, Lamar Jackson, another of the group of exciting young quarterbacks and TV draws, banged the back of his head in Baltimore’s close playoff loss. He also didn’t return. Ten years ago, both of those guys would’ve come back, clear-headed or not. Both would have been praised as warriors.
“More often than not, a player ruled out with head injury misses the next week,’’ wrote OutKick’s Dr. David Chao, longtime team doctor for the San Diego Chargers. “But that rule is not absolute. Because the Championship game is at home (and not requiring a travel day), Mahomes will have a full seven days to clear concussion protocol. However, the NFL and a neuro consultant agreed upon by the NFLPA will make the final determination on whether he plays.’’
Players are tested before the season to set a baseline for their brain function. Mahomes will now be tested against that baseline. And teams now use third-party doctors, as opposed to team doctors who often succumbed to pressure from coaches in days of yore.
Mahomes is the big draw in the NFL now and in the immediate future. He is the one the NFL and networks want kids to see, as youth participation goes down because of parents’ fear over, that’s right, concussions.
So this is a big test case now for the NFL. But dodging and pretending don’t accomplish anything. We need honest news now on Mahomes, no matter what the networks and NFL think. It starts with one word: