If there was any doubt Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes would play on Sunday in the AFC Championship Game against the Cincinnati Bengals, it was officially put to rest on Friday when Chiefs head coach Andy Reid confirmed his star quarterback is ready to go.
"He looks good. He's moving around good," Reid said in his Friday press conference. "He'll go out and play."
This news comes after positive updates throughout the week. Mahomes practiced fully on Thursday after being a full participant in Wednesday's session.
"He felt good in the walkthrough," Reid said of Mahomes on Thursday, ahead of the practice session. "He's on track. His feet are doing OK right now, so he still can move then. So he's not just throwing with all arm. But he's got a good enough arm. You've seen him do it even when there's no ankle issue, so he'll throw some balls where he's flat-footed."
Overall, it's been a positive stretch for Mahomes, who left his press conference Wednesday without either a walking boot or a noticeable limp.
"I still feel like I can do a lot of things," Mahomes said Thursday. "We'll see as we get closer and closer -- and we'll see during the game. You can't fully do exactly what you're going to be in those moments in the game, but all I can do is prepare myself the best way possible -- and then, when we get in the game, you hope adrenaline kind of takes over and you can make those throws when you need to."
However, he still isn't sure how close he will be operating to his full capacity come Sunday evening.
"We'll see during the game," Mahomes said when asked what he thinks he will be able to do against the Bengals. "All I can do is prepare myself as much as possible. I'm going to prepare my body the best way during the week to be in the best position possible."
The Chiefs are in the same boat regarding uncertainty around how well their quarterback's ankle will hold up throughout Sunday's game, per NFL Media's Ian Rapoport. His ankle swelled up "less on Monday than what was anticipated" and he participated more in practice throughout the week than they had projected. However, per Rapoport, Mahomes hasn't run sprints or done anything full speed in practice this week, so there's a lack of clarity on how the ankle will react if he absorbs another big hit.
Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bienemy raved about Mahomes' fight and dedication to ensuring he will remain available for his team despite the high ankle sprain.
"He's just a competitive person, he's a competitive player," Bieniemy said, via Pro Football Talk. "It's the intestinal fortitude that's in him. He just refuses to accept that he's not going to put himself out there to be with his teammates. You love that about him. Last week was a unique situation and difficult in a lot of ways because obviously you always want to make sure that the player is OK, but more importantly, you also know that he can give you the best chance of winning."
The quarterback said his rehab continues with "one of 8,000 different devices" to speed up his recovery when he eventually leaves the team facility and goes home.
"Throughout the day, you have highs and lows," Mahomes said before Thursday's practice. "You get yourself ready to go for practice, you practice hard as you can -- and then after, you're obviously a little bit sorer than you were before. You work on it and do your treatment and stuff after to get in the best shape for whenever you go to sleep -- and you wake up and do it all over again.
"I think progressively I've gotten better throughout the week, and I'm just going to try to keep doing that: keep that same mentality and push it -- but at the same time, be ready to go whenever the game comes up."
While Mahomes projected some uncertainty with how much of his abilities he'll have on Sunday, Bieniemy gushed about how quickly he's bounced back from his high ankle sprain.
"I have no idea, but I want whatever he's taking."
Mahomes, who suffered a high ankle sprain in last weekend's win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, has maintained all along that he would play in Sunday's AFC Championship Game against the Cincinnati Bengals, and right now it appears to be trending in that direction. He continued to elaborate on the status of his ankle, per NFL Media, saying he has been getting treatment "consistently since Saturday night" after the divisional round win against the Jaguars and hasn't been home much other than to get some sleep.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, the Chiefs' top wide receiver, expressed supreme confidence Wednesday in Mahomes' ability to play at a high level even with the high ankle sprain.
"There is nothing that is going to stop Pat from doing what Pat does," Smith-Schuster said, via NFL Media.
On Monday, Reid noted that Mahomes' ankle injury is not as severe as the one Mahomes suffered in Week 1 of the 2019 season, also against Jacksonville. That has to be music to the ears of Chiefs fans, especially considering that a week after that 2019 injury, he torched the Raiders to the tune of 30-for-44 passing, 443 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions.
In the first quarter against the Jaguars last weekend, Mahomes went down on a tackle and had a defender's leg fall onto his right ankle, which twisted as he went to the ground. Mahomes was limping and hobbled to the sideline, but remained in the game for the time being, eventually getting his ankle taped.
Here is a look at how the injury happened:
Ouch. Better look at the Mahomes injury pic.twitter.com/zEUp5eJSln— Aaron Ladd (@aaronladd0) January 21, 2023
The ankle twisting is apparent in the replay, as Jaguars' Arden Key and Corey Peters tackled the quarterback.
Mahomes did eventually head to the Chiefs' locker room early in the second quarter looking visibly upset over being taken out of he game. He was replaced by backup Chad Henne, the 37-year-old former Jaguar who had not started a game in eight years. Henne took over with the Chiefs backed up on the 1-yard-line, and led a long, impressive drive, capped off with his first postseason touchdown.
Mahomes was the first Chiefs player to come out of the locker room after halftime, and after taking some warmup throws, he returned for the first drive of the second half and would not come out again. In some moments it did look like he was still limping.
Mahomes addressed not wanting to leave the game after the win.
"Yeah I did not want to go and they kind of gave me the ultimatum of I wasn't going back in unless I went in there so they're trying to take care of me we got a lot of great people over here, but it's gonna take a lot to keep me out of a football game," he said.
Before going out with the injury, Mahomes was 12 of 15 for 84 yards and one touchdown. He finished the game going 22-for-30 with 195 yards, two touchdowns, a completion percentage of 73.3 and a 112.5 passer rating.
Mahomes and Co. are preparing for a rematch of last season's AFC Championship Game, in which the Cincinnati Bengals outlasted the host Chiefs, 27-24, in overtime. Third-seeded Cincinnati manhandled the second-seeded Bills in Buffalo, 27-10, in the divisional round.
"I'm doing good, AFC Championship week, I'm ready to go," Mahomes said Wednesday. "[Ankle is] doing good, I've had a few days of treatment, a few days of rehab. I'm excited to go get on the practice field and test it out, see where I'm at. It's feeling good so far."