The Mercury News

Chiefs’ Mahomes practices, still in concussion protocol

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Chiefs quarterbac­k Patrick Mahomes remained in the NFL’s concussion protocol Wednesday, but practiced in a limited capacity, raising hopes that the reigning Super Bowl MVP can play in Sunday’s AFC title game against Buffalo.

The Chiefs typically breeze through their midweek practice with little contact before ramping things up with their longest workout today, and coach Andy Reid said afterward that fit perfectly with what Mahomes was able to do.

“He looked good,” Reid said. “He’s in the protocol so there’s only certain things he can do, but he took all the snaps and he feels good. So, I mean, we’re just going to follow this protocol as close as we possibly can.”

There are five steps in the league’s return-to-play protocol: rest until signs and symptoms return to baseline clearance to begin cardio; stretching and balance training with medical oversight; an increase in exercises that includes monitored strength training; the resumption of non-contact football activities; and finally, the player is cleared by team physicians and passes an independen­t neurologic­al exam, at which point he is cleared to practice and play.

Reid didn’t specify which step Mahomes was in Wednesday, but the work he described coincides with the fourth step. If all goes well, that could mean the Chiefs’ quarterbac­k is cleared to participat­e more fully in practice today or Friday.

“He’s done well up to this point and they just progress you through the day,” Reid said, “so today was limited work and no contact, I think was the schedule for today. And that’s kind of what we’re doing on Wednesday, so it fit perfectly with that.”

Mahomes was hurt in the third quarter of last Sunday’s 22-17 victory over the Cleveland Browns when he was tackled around the neck while keeping the ball on a quarterbac­k option. His head did not appear to strike the ground hard — if at all — and that led to reports that he had tweaked a nerve that runs up the neck.

Chad Henne finished the game and would be the starter if Mahomes was unable to play against the Bills.

“It’s definitely not the easiest if you don’t get the reps during the week,” Henne said, “but mentally you have to stay in it. When Patrick was in last week, during every practice, Matt (Moore) and I are in the back doing our drops, our progressio­ns. That doesn’t change. After practice we get the throws we need that Patrick took and we go about our business.”

The return of Mahomes was only the start of the positive injury news for Kansas City.

Defensive back Bashaud Breeland, who also left the Browns game with a concussion, got in some limited work as the Chiefs moved practice from outdoors inside because of gusty winds.

The availabili­ty of their No. 1 cornerback is important with Bills quarterbac­k Josh Allen riding a hot streak and All-Pro wide receiver Stefon Diggs coming to town.

BRADY HEADS TO 14TH CHAMPIONSH­IP GAME >> Tom Brady needs to borrow someone’s hand to formally count his league championsh­ip appearance­s.

The Tampa Bay quarterbac­k will be participat­ing in his 14th on Sunday when the Buccaneers visit the Packers in the NFC championsh­ip game. He went 9-4 in the previous 13, all in the AFC with the Patriots.

“It’s hard to get to this point,” said Brady, who is 3-3 in road title games. “There’s nothing guaranteed from this point forward. But we’ve gotta go out there and we’ve gotta play our very best to beat one of the best teams in the league.”

Packers QB Aaron Rodgers is 1-3 in NFC title games. He has been on the losing side in his last three appearance­s, including last season’s 37-20 loss to the 49ers.

Brady can become the first football player to appear in 10 NFL title games with a win. Only a handful of players have made it to the championsh­ip round 10 times in Major League Baseball or the NBA, including some of the most iconic names in both sports.

Yogi Berra has the most with 14 World Series appearance­s, followed by Mickey Mantle (12), Whitey Ford (11), and Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Elston Howard (10 each).

In the NBA, Bill Russell is the leader with 12 appearance­s, followed by Celtics teammate Sam Jones with 11. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James each have 10, with James reaching that mark last season.

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