When Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes lay crumpled on the field in Denver, anyone in their right mind reasonably ventured that he was severely injured.
Especially since he’s not one to stay down when taken to the ground, as noted by coach Andy Reid, who was too immersed in game-management mode to fear the worst but nonetheless promptly started ambling to Mahomes’ side as the reigning league MVP writhed with a dislocated kneecap.
“Those do not look pretty,” Reid said Wednesday, an understated reference to the gruesome spectacle that Travis Kelce last week said “didn’t look like a knee” and that left Tyreek Hill spinning away from the sight.
The minds of Chiefs fans, who have endured a half-century of trap doors and kicks in the teeth and otherwise playing Charlie Brown to Lucy forever pulling the football away, could only be conditioned to gravitate to the worst-case scenario: out for the season.
But then there’s the mind that really matters.
The mind over matter.
That of Mahomes, who, ho-hum, returned to practice Wednesday and was declared by Reid possible to return when the Chiefs play Green Bay Sunday night at Arrowhead Stadium.
Now, we learned a long time ago never to play poker with Reid. And as balky as Mahomes appeared Wednesday during the brief part of practice that was open to media, it’s entirely possible this is more about gamesmanship and misdirection than anything else.
The guess here is that backup Matt Moore will start Sunday — and that the silver-linings playbook to that scenario is that sitting will give Mahomes more time to also recover from the ankle issues he’s been suffering since the opener and has aggravated at least twice since.
That said, the very fact Mahomes was out there at all made for the latest twist in his ever-unfolding legend.
Suddenly, he goes from maybe out for the season to optimistically back in three to six weeks to seemingly on the cusp of an inspiring and improbable return in Week 8.
We know Mahomes’ infinite powers extend well beyond his arm, but who knew he actually was a mutant capable of regenerating his own body parts?
When I threw that concept at receiver Gehrig Dieter, one of Mahomes’ best friends, he laughed and said, “He’s a special type of human.”
More seriously, Dieter figured this was just the latest testament to Mahomes’ makeup.
“He’s just a super-competitive guy in whatever he does; anything that kind of faces him, I guess he just attacks it in a different way than most people do,” he said. “His injury is in the way of him playing. So he does whatever he can do to get past that. I mean, who knows if he can play or not? But he attacks every day like he’s going to play.”
For that matter, he started attacking this moments after enduring the agony of Dr. Paul Schroeppel performing what is technically but euphemistically called a reduction of the dislocated patella.
In layman’s terms, we call that, “Did he really just pop his kneecap back in place?!”
Mahomes declined to be carted off the field that night, Reid said.
Sure, he was helped off the field and all. But by the time he was headed to the locker room for an X-ray, he shrugged off assistance and walked on his own power and even threw his arms up as if to urge on fans.
On video replays, Mahomes appeared to summon a swagger over a barely perceptible limp. After all …
“He thought he could go back in,” Reid said, with a laugh. “That’s how he’s wired. I mean, he’s wired a little differently that way.”
After the game, Mahomes was in the locker room congratulating and encouraging his teammates, shouting, “Take care of yourself this weekend. Enjoy yourself. Be smart. We’ve got more to go, baby!”
He later tweeted, “Awesome team win! Love my brothers! Thank you for all the prayers! Everything looking good so far!”
And, preposterously, better and better since.
The X-rays came back negative that night. An MRI the next day “turned out as good as we could possibly imagine,” Chiefs athletic trainer Rick Burkholder said Monday, noting Mahomes had been doing rehabilitation and pool therapy all weekend.
“He has done some stuff in the athletic training room and is progressing nicely,” Burkholder added. “As I’ve talked to you guys over the years here, every guy is different, and every injury is different. … We’ll manage Patrick accordingly and he is right in the middle of the process.”
Outside the cloak of secrecy within the Chiefs organization, it’s impossible to know precisely where in the process Mahomes is. The Chiefs are absolutely incentivized to keep everyone guessing, after all.
But it sure seems the truth is smack in the middle between a miracle turnaround and an utter smokescreen.
Because with skills and a will that in plenty of other ways have elevated Mahomes beyond what we might consider the bounds of mortal possibility, you sure have to be a cynic to dismiss the prospect when it comes to a guy who has changed the very range of hopes and dreams for those so accustomed to them being torched.
“Everybody’s different,” Reid said.
And some are special types of humans.