Patrick Mahomes practiced for the third straight day Friday and was cleared to play in the AFC championship game. Reed Hoffman/Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was cleared Friday from the league’s concussion protocol after his third consecutive day of practice and will be under center when Kansas City plays the Buffalo Bills in the AFC championship game on Sunday.

Mahomes was hurt in the third quarter of the Chiefs’ divisional-round win over Cleveland. He returned to take the majority of snaps in a light workout Wednesday, then did the same during the longest practice of the week Thursday, before team doctors and an independent neurologist gave him the green light following Friday’s workout.

“The week has been a bunch of testing, a bunch of different things, to make sure I’m good to go and there’s no lingering effects and things like that,” Mahomes said. “Everything has been good. I went through everything; three or four different doctors have said everything is looking good.”

The reigning Super Bowl MVP was hurt when he was tackled around the head by Browns linebacker Mack Wilson while running a quarterback option. It never appeared that Mahomes hit his head on the turf – and if he did, it was not the kind of impact that usually leads to a concussion – raising the possibility that he had actually compressed a nerve.

Either way, Mahomes immediately showed the symptoms of a concussion. He remained on the turf for a couple of minutes, then nearly collapsed when he got to his feet. He was still wobbly as trainers helped him to the sideline and into the blue injury tent, though he looked more steady when he ran into the locker room a few minutes later.

The Chiefs wasted little time ruling Mahomes out, though. Chad Henne finished off the 22-17 victory.

“We had an option play called we ran a little earlier,” Mahomes recalled Friday, “and I ran out to the right. I got hit. I tried to get up, felt my legs go out and knew that wasn’t a good thing.”

Still, Mahomes had enough wits about him to tell the trainers to let him remain on the turf so that Henne would have a chance to warm up – “because I knew we were going to go for it on fourth down,” Mahomes said.

“You want to be out there, but you have to go through the protocol and do everything the right way. You have to look at everything long term as much as short term,” said Mahomes, who signed a 10-year contract in the offseason that could pay him close to a half-billion dollars over the course of the deal. “We have the belief there will be no lingering effects and I’ll be able to go out there and be myself and be who I am every single week.”

Mahomes was second in the NFL with 4,740 yards passing this season, despite skipping the regular-season finale with the Chiefs already assured of the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye. The long layoff between Week 16 and last Sunday wasn’t a problem, either, as Mahomes threw for 255 yards with TDs running and passing before he was hurt.

He has 15 touchdowns, including three on the ground, without an interception in five postseason starts at home.

Running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire (high-ankle sprain) also practiced for the third straight day and appears ready to play for the first time since Week 15. Cornerback Bashaud Breeland (concussion) is also likely to be cleared to play. Linebacker Willie Gay Jr. (high-ankle sprain) and running back Le’Veon Bell (swollen knee) were the only Chiefs players who did not practice Friday.

BILLS: Buffalo is uncertain whether wide receiver Gabriel Davis will be available to play in the AFC championship game.

Davis and defensive tackle Vernon Butler were listed as questionable Friday after returning to practice on a limited basis. Davis sat out two practices because of an ankle injury.

BUCCANEERS: Tampa Bay bolstered its defense for the NFC championship game, activating nose tackle Vita Vea from the reserve/injured list.

The third-year pro, one of the top run-stoppers in the NFL, has been sidelined since early October because of a broken ankle. He resumed practicing this week and will be available Sunday against the Green Bay Packers.

Coach Bruce Arians also said that receiver Antonio Brown, who had been day-to-day because of a knee injury, will not play Sunday.

WASHINGTON: Ron Rivera bulked up his front office, hiring Martin Mayhew to be general manager and Marty Hurney to serve as executive vice president of football and player personnel.

The moves give Rivera two seasoned NFL executives to work with going into his second season coaching and running football operations.

Mayhew joins Washington after four seasons with the San Francisco 49ers. Before that, he spent a year with the New York Giants and was GM of the Detroit Lions for seven-plus seasons.

He and Hurney will report directly to Rivera as part of the organization’s coach-centric front-office structure under owner Dan Snyder. Hurney was widely reported to be the pick as GM this week before Mayhew became the choice.

SUPER BOWL: The NFL announced that 7,500 health care workers vaccinated for the coronavirus will be given free tickets to next month’s Super Bowl to be played in Tampa, Florida.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell also said in a news release that attendance at the Feb. 7 game would be limited to those workers and about 14,500 other fans. Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, has a capacity of just under 66,000, according to its website.

Most of the health care workers who will get free game tickets will come from the Tampa Bay area and central Florida, Goodell said. But he added that all 32 NFL teams will choose some workers from their cities to attend the game.

“These dedicated health care workers continue to put their own lives at risk to serve others, and we owe them our ongoing gratitude,” Goodell said. “We hope in a small way that this initiative will inspire our country and recognize these true American heroes.”

There will also be what Goodell called “a variety of special moments” to honor health care workers in the stadium during the game and also on the television broadcast by CBS.

BEARS: Chicago promoted safeties coach Sean Desai to replace retired defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano.


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