KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Patrick Mahomes remained in constant communication with Travis Kelce last week, when the Kansas City Chiefs tight end was trying to test out of COVID-19 protocols in time to play an important game against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Chiefs quarterback was still in touch with Kelce on Monday, when the team gathered at the facility to review the film of a 36-10 drubbing that allowed Kansas City to clinch its record sixth consecutive AFC West title.
“He was still annoyed he couldn’t be back in the building,” Mahomes said.
Well, the Pro Bowl tight end was back Wednesday — along with everyone else that tested positive for the virus last week, totaling 16 players on the active roster and practice squad.
In fact, the only person that didn’t participate in Wednesday’s practice was running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who hurt his collarbone against Pittsburgh.
The fact that the Chiefs are among the healthiest teams in the NFL is among the many reasons they have gone from a 3-4 example of mediocrity the first two months of the season to eight consecutive wins and the definition of excellence.
Yes, they have nobody on the COVID-19 list right now. But they have almost nobody on the injury list, either.
Unlike last season.
The Chiefs were so ransacked by injuries a year ago, particularly when the playoffs rolled around, and they were forced to start a hodge-podge of offensive linemen.
Perhaps the outcome would have been the same had their best group played against the Buccaneers in the Super Bowl that February night, but the fill-ins were soundly handled by Tampa Bay’s pass rush that nobody wants to replay that humiliating game film.
Fast-forward nearly 11 months, though, and the Chiefs’ injury report the past few weeks has had two or three names on it — usually something minor that kept guys from being full participants in a workout.
Meanwhile, the injury reports elsewhere in the NFL often have a dozen or more names, and often several players that didn’t practice at all.
Even on the rare occasion someone gets nicked up, things seem to work out swimmingly for the Chiefs.
That was the case against the Steelers, when safety Tyrann Mathieu tweaked his quad in the second half. The Chiefs had a big lead by that point, giving coach Andy Reid the opportunity to hold Mathieu out the rest of the way.
“You know what? He feels great,” Reid said Wednesday. “We took him out and the trainers started working on him the next day, and he came back and he was great. We all know he’s a tough kid and loves to play the game. That point of the game, we’d enough of a lead we could get started and boy, did it make a huge difference.”
Edwards-Helaire is another example.
There were initial fears that the dynamic running back had broken his collarbone against Pittsburgh and would miss the rest of the season.
But additional testing Monday revealed no structural damage, and while it’s unlikely Edwards-Helaire will be cleared to play this week, he will almost certainly be available by the time the playoffs begin.
Perhaps the injury karma of last season and this season are evening out.
“We’ve got a lot of competitors in this room,” said Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones, one of the few starters to miss a game to an actual injury — and later to COVID-19 — during this season. “I think that mind frame at the end of the year will continue to go up, especially for the playoffs, and we’ll see where it takes us.”