Notes, Quotes

The Sports Xchange

December 27, 2018 at 1:43 am.

–Chiefs wide receiver Sammy Watkins and right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif are taking a step forward in their progress toward returning to action, but neither player seems likely to play in Sunday’s season finale against the Oakland Raiders.

Head coach Andy Reid said Watkins had been wearing a protective boot on his injured right foot as a preventive measure. Watkins is out of the cast now, but didn’t practice on Wednesday.

“The doc says he just wanted it to settle down,” Reid said. “They felt the best way to do that was put him in a cast. He’s out of the cast, moving around, just going through the rehab process of getting back.”

Watkins injured his right foot against the Cleveland Browns in Week 9. He played just one game since, taking five snaps against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 11.

Duvernay-Tardif remains on injured reserve, but he returned to practice on Wednesday. The 27-year-old lineman suffered a Maisonneuve fracture in his left leg against Jacksonville in Week 5. The injury involved a fracture of his fibula along with ligament damage in his ankle. Duvernay-Tardif worked on the side with trainers last week before returning to practice Wednesday.

Reid said he plans to bring Duvernay-Tardif along gradually.

“It’s just a matter of getting in and playing, getting caught up with the speed of the game,” Reid said. “We practice fast so you get an idea of it.”

Given that Duvernay-Tardif hasn’t played in nearly three months, Reid said the challenge lies in getting back into football shape as best as possible this late in the season.

“And then testing it against pro athletes, not the trainers. He’s going against big bodies and guys that are quick and how does it feel there,” Reid said.

The coach said that Duvernay-Tardif, who holds a medical degree from McGill University, understands the nature of recovery from injuries better than most players.

“He knows the other side of it, too, he’s got the answer to the test,” Reid said. “Not a lot of guys have that, so he kind of knows what needs to be done to take care of it. He works at it hard.”

Duvernay-Tardif’s return to practice starts a three-week window during which he can practice before the Chiefs must return him to the active roster or leave him on injured reserve the remainder of the season. The Chiefs can only return one more player from injured reserve after activating safety Daniel Sorensen earlier this season. Duvernay-Tardif’s return to practice permanently ends the season for rookie safety Armani Watts, who remains on injured reserve with a groin injury.

If the Chiefs beat Oakland on Sunday, they clinch home-field advantage during the AFC playoffs and a first-round bye. That means the Chiefs wouldn’t play again until the weekend of Jan. 12-13, providing both Watkins and Duvernay-Tardif an extra week of recovery.

–Safety Eric Berry played 69 of the Chiefs’ 80 defensive snaps in Sunday night’s 38-31 loss to Seattle, yet found himself on the sideline during a final decisive defensive stand in the fourth quarter.

“I don’t think twice about that,” Reid said Wednesday as the team prepares for their season finale against Oakland. “You’ve got to go off of his feel. He hasn’t played in two years, so I’m aware of that. I don’t want to take any steps backward and neither does he.”

Berry took a significant step forward in his second game back after missing most of the 2017 season with a torn Achilles tendon and missing the first 13 games of this season with another heel injury. He played 30 snaps, all in the first half, in the team’s Week 15 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

The Chiefs defense faced 80 snaps against Seattle, tied for the fourth most they’ve played this season. That inability to get off the field prevented Berry from playing a pivotal role in the crucial fourth quarter as the Chiefs mounted a comeback, Reid explained.

“He had every intention of going into the fourth quarter, but it was just so many snaps he can take right now and he’s easing backing into it,” Reid said. “I have full trust in him. If he could have gone a half, we would have gone a half.”

Reid insists the Chiefs don’t have a hard ceiling on snap counts for Berry, but he said the coaching and medical staff communicate with him through the game to measure his comfort.

“We talked throughout the game, I knew we were pretty close there,” Reid said.

Reid reiterated the Chiefs have every intention to bring Berry back slowly after an extensive layoff. But the actions of both the player and the club over the past month remain consistent with ensuring Berry can handle a full game workload starting with the playoffs in January without suffering a setback.

“There’s a lot to it, not just that part of the injury, but getting his body back into playing,” Reid said.

–Patrick Mahomes completed just one of his first seven passes in a 38-31 loss to the Seattle Seahawks Sunday night, but the young gunslinger says he only knows one way to emerge from a sluggish start and jump start the Chiefs offense.

“I mean it’s all about the next play,: Mahomes said Wednesday as the Chiefs prepare for their regular-season finale against Oakland. “The next play, you always get an opportunity to do better. For me, that’s my mentality. It doesn’t matter how the entire game went, as long as you go out there and execute that next play and do the best to your ability, that’s the best you can do in that moment.”

The Chiefs don’t make it a habit of starting slow, outscoring their opponents 133-56 in the first quarter this season. But the first quarter proves statistically the weakest for Mahomes, although still relatively spectacular given his MVP-type season.

Three of the worst starts for Mahomes have come on the road in prime-time games. In addition to the slow start at Seattle, Mahomes completed 4-of-9 passes for 53 yards an interception at New England in Week 6. On Monday night against the Broncos in Week 4, Mahomes started 4-of-8 passing for 41 yards. The Chiefs lost at both the Seahawks and Patriots, but rallied for a 27-23 win at Denver.

Head coach Andy Reid doesn’t see any cause for concern with slow starts from Mahomes.

“He has a tendency to settle down as he goes through and makes plays as he goes,” Reid said. “He usually gives you an opportunity to win the game.”

Reid pointed to the first pass by Mahomes against Seattle as a pivotal play. Mahomes targeted wide receiver Tyreek Hill on a slant, trying to angle the ball around linebacker K.J. Wright, who tipped the ball at the line of scrimmage for an incompletion.

“He was off by about two inches on that first throw and the defensive player I thought made a nice play,” Reid said. “He hits that one, it is a touchdown. He had to kind of work around it. We probably don’t talk about that.”

Sometimes, Mahomes explained, it takes him a moment acclimating to the flow of the game.

“You want to come out and play fast, you want to come out and score on the first drive, on every single drive,” Mahomes said. “But you have to kind of get into the flow of the game, you have to see where the game takes you. Sometimes you don’t get that fast start you want, but you have to find a way to bounce back as quickly as possible.”

BY THE NUMBERS: 54 – Number of receiving yards needed by Travis Kelce to set a record for most receiving yards in a season by a tight end. Kelce enters Week 17 with 98 catches for 1,274 yards. Last week he passed Tony Gonzalez for the Chiefs’ franchise record for most receiving yards by a tight end in a season. Rob Gronkowski holds the NFL record with 1,327 receiving yards in 2011.