By DAVE SKRETTA
AP Sports Writer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes walked through Arrowhead Stadium as if nothing was amiss Wednesday, his sprained right ankle hardly hampering the All-Pro quarterback as he began preparing for the AFC title game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
Mahomes went through a normal morning walkthrough and then headed out for an afternoon practice with the rest of the Chiefs, four days after a Jacksonville pass rusher landed on his ankle and forced him to hobble off the field in pain.
“AFC championship week,” Mahomes said with a smile. “I’m ready to go.”
Mahomes was hurt late in the first quarter of the Chiefs’ 27-20 win over the Jaguars on Saturday. X-rays during the game came back negative, and Mahomes returned in the second half to lead the Chiefs to a spot in their fifth straight conference title game — and a Sunday night rematch with the Bengals, who beat them for a spot in last year’s Super Bowl.
Mahomes began getting treatment after the game, and an MRI on Sunday showed no structural damage.
“The last few days has been an all-day thing,” Mahomes said, “where you’re doing treatment and rehab and watching film. You’re trying to make sure you’re prepared for the Bengals, a great football team, mentally and physically.”
Mahomes jogged around without any apparent limp Wednesday in the brief portion of practice open to local reporters.
He said the injury is similar to one he played through early in the 2019 season, when Mahomes came back the following week to throw four touchdown passes in a win over the Raiders. The only difference is it’s the opposite ankle.
It’s also not as bad as a toe injury that Mahomes had earlier in his career.
“He had a couple injuries in college he fought through,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “In the NFL, with all the games you play, very seldom do you get to this point without having something. That’s just how it goes.”
Reid said he doesn’t anticipate holding Mahomes back in practice this week, though it’s possible that Chad Henne gets some additional reps in practice. The 37-year-old backup led the Chiefs on a 12-play, 98-yard touchdown drive against the Jaguars while Mahomes was getting checked out late in the first half.
“Most likely he won’t just do a little. I don’t think I’m going to have to go there with that,” Reid said of Mahomes. “I may have to pull him back a little bit. But knowing him, I think he’s going to try to do everything.”
Mahomes also expects to practice like normal, though he admitted the plan could change if there is any soreness after a workout. The Chiefs also practice Thursday and Friday, though the final one of the week is more like a walkthrough.
“We’ll see throughout the week,” Mahomes said. “I’ve done limited stuff in a small box of what I can do, but I’ll push today and the next day and the next day again, to not reaggravate the injury but see what I can do.”
Asked what it meant to see his ailing leader take the field, Chiefs wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster replied: “It pretty much showed how much heart he has for his team and how much love for everyone.”
“Even this past game when he was going through his whole process,” Smith-Schuster said, “we could see he was fighting.”
Earlier on Wednesday, Mahomes was announced as one of the finalists for The Associated Press 2022 NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year awards. The 2018 MVP had perhaps the best season of his career, throwing for a career-best 5,250 yards with a league-leading 41 touchdown passes and just 12 interceptions.
Mahomes is winless in three tries against Bengals counterpart Joe Burrow, though, which includes last year’s AFC title game, when the Chiefs quarterback played poorly down the stretch and they blew a 21-3 lead in a 27-24 overtime defeat.
“It’s about being a competitor. You want to be out there, especially in these games,” Mahomes said. “You get to gameday, you just have to focus on the game. That’s what I’ll try to do. Try to prepare my body the best I can.”
NOTES: WR Mecole Hardman (abdominal injury) practiced Wednesday after missing all last week. He has not played since Nov. 6, and a series of setbacks since returning from injured reserve have kept him off the field. … TE Jody Fortson (elbow) and RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire also practiced. Both returned from IR last week but neither has been added to the active roster. “There’s a chance, either one,” Reid said of their potential to play Sunday. “Maybe more Fortson than Clyde.”
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