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Kansas City Chiefs fans across the country stood in unison Sunday with their mouths wide open and their hands shielding their eyes after Patrick Mahomes hobbled off the field following a big hit in the AFC divisional-round game against the Cleveland Browns. Mahomes was later diagnosed with a concussion and never returned to the game.

The Chiefs survived the injury scare to knock off the Browns and move on to the AFC Championship for the third straight season, but Mahomes’ availability for next weekend still looms large. So, what will it take for Mahomes to be cleared to play in the AFC Championship against the Buffalo Bills?

Patrick Mahomes suffers scary concussion

Things were going swimmingly for the Chiefs midway through the third quarter of Sunday’s AFC divisional-round game against the Browns. Patrick Mahomes was on his way to another 300-yard playoff performance, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce were torching Cleveland’s secondary with ease, and the Chiefs’ defense was mostly dominating Baker Mayfield and company.

But that all changed with one play. With just over seven minutes left in the third quarter, Mahomes ran a quarterback sweep around the right side and took a big hit from Browns LB Mack Wilson. Mahomes stayed on the ground in pain and hobbled like a baby deer as he tried to stand up. It was clear he had suffered a concussion on the play.

Mahomes left the game and headed to the Chiefs’ locker room. He was later diagnosed with a concussion and ruled out for the rest of the game. The Chiefs survived to win 22-17 and move on to the AFC Championship game next weekend, but will Mahomes be cleared in time to play?

Chiefs give an encouraging update on Mahomes’ concussion

After the win, Chiefs fans could barely take a second to celebrate. All they could think about was their $500 million quarterback. How bad is his concussion? Did he suffer any other injuries? Will he be back in time for next Sunday?

That last question is yet to be answered, but Chiefs head coach Andy Reid gave an encouraging update about his star QB’s health after the game.

“He got hit in the back of the head and kinda knocked the wind out of him and everything else with it,” Reid said after the win.” 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.”

What will it take for Patrick Mahomes to return for the AFC Championship?

Patrick Mahomes entered the concussion protocol Monday, which means he will have to pass the five steps of the protocol before being cleared to play next Sunday in the AFC Championship game against the Bills. The five-step process is as follows, according to

  1. Symptom limited activity: The player is prescribed rest until the signs and symptoms and neurological examination, including cognitive and balance tests, return to baseline status.
  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.
  3. Football specific exercise: The player continues with graduated cardiovascular exercises that are increased and may mimic sport-specific activities, and supervised strength training is introduced.
  4. Club-based non-contact training drills: The player continues cardiovascular, strength and balance training and participates in non-contact football activities (e.g. throwing, catching, running, and other position-specific activities.
  5. Full football activity/clearance: Upon clearance by the team 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 team physician that the player’s concussion has resolved, he may participate in the club’s next practice or game.

Mahomes will have to pass all five steps before he is cleared to return to the field. But if we’re being honest, Roger Goodell isn’t going to let the Chiefs start Chad Henne at quarterback over the reigning Super Bowl MVP in the AFC Championship. It would be a shock if Mahomes wasn’t on the field next Sunday.