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Chiefs' doc knew Mahomes would return quickly from knee injury

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While Patrick Mahomes was in pain on the turf, his knee sideways, a nation collectively gasped. It appeared to the untrained eye that the Chiefs' star quarterback -- one of the best in the NFL -- had his season abruptly end.

That, by the way, included Mahomes. He said this week, "I thought the worst for sure." To the trained eye of Dr. J Paul Schroeppel, the Chiefs orthopedist, it was much, much different.

"We knew pretty early that he had a good chance to come back from this in a timely matter," said Schroeppel, who works at the University of Kansas Medical Center, told NFL.com in his first comments about Mahomes' injury. "His imaging and everything suggested that, as well. It's one of those things generally you can rehab and do OK with for a lot of people."

For Mahomes, who leads his Chiefs into Super Bowl LIV today, it meant he missed a mere two games with a dislocated kneecap. For the Chiefs' respected medical staff, which includes Schroeppel, VP of Sports Medicine and Performance Rick Burkholder and many others, it meant a victory before Mahomes even before he took the field again. Mahomes' knee escaped with minimal damage -- as big a win as any they had this season.

In reality, two essential things happened while Mahomes was on the field. One was that he didn't move and exacerbate it all.

"I think he could probably tell something wasn't correct," Schroeppel said, "and he just wanted to get us out there first, get our eyes on it before we made a decision to proceed."

The other important part was how quickly and efficiently Schroeppel popped Mahomes' knee back in place. That's right, it was the Chiefs orthopedist who physically reduced the knee -- a clutch moment he shrugs off.

"I mean, we're there to do a job," he said. "We just got to get out there, get it taken care of whoever it may be, spur of moment. We're taking care of these guys to try to make quick, efficient decisions. ... We identified it, it was reduced pretty quickly thereafter, we tried to get him as comfortable as possible. Came off the field and carried on."

As crazy as it sounds, Mahomes may not be 100% yet. Asked if the quarterback was, Schroeppel said, "You'd have to ask him" and he allowed that they've continued to monitor the knee all season based on how Mahomes feels and how much flexion he has in the knee. He'll have plenty of time for rest after the season.

And even when Mahomes had to miss two games, he wasn't thrilled about it.

"He's a special individual," Schroeppel said. "He works harder than anybody. He was ready to go. We had to slow him down a bit."

In his return from a knee injury, Mahomes had a passer rating of 119.2 in a loss to the Titans. He was ready. And still, there was some trepidation from those involved that he was out there at all.

"Anytime somebody is returning to play, the re-injury rate is never zero," Schroeppel said. "So, we want to do our best to optimize him, make sure that it's as close to zero as can be. It's always something that you have to weigh the risk and reward of. But he's so exceptional, he went through rehab so well, we felt it was an appropriate decision to make."

Had they not handled it so smoothly, Kansas City may not be here today.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet.

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