KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Chiefs linebacker corps could be missing a member the team was relying on this season.
Inside linebacker Joe Mays, who underwent wrist surgery for an injury sustained during the second preseason game against the Carolina Panthers, is likely out of action for an undetermined period.
“I don’t think it’s a short period of time,” coach Andy Reid said during a Sunday afternoon media conference call. “I don’t know exactly how long it’s going to be.”
Reid, who categorized the recovery the same or “if not longer” as a broken bone, initially said during the conference call Mays underwent surgery to repair a torn tendon.
The procedure, however, was to repair ligament damage, a source informed ChiefsSpin.com.
The Chiefs later clarified Reid’s statement by confirming the ligament procedure.
Meanwhile, certified athletic trainer Jeff Stotts of the St. Vincent Health Systems in Little Rock, Ark., did not evaluate or treat Mays.
But Stotts, who holds PES and CES certifications from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, offered an opinion on the recovery timeframe for the procedure based on his background.
Stotts said recovery is dependent on the affected ligament. He adds there could’ve been a “significant tear” in the ligament when considering surgery was required.
“Your standard recovery time is hard to do with football because of the physical demands of each different position,” Stotts said. “But for inside linebacker who has to use his hands a lot to tackle, a three-month window would be good.
“He may be able to push the envelope and come back a little bit quicker depending on what ligament is involved, and then what kind of recovery he’s able to go through, which will basically be range of motion focused on strengthening. And then the functional groups come into play in terms of using the hand in a way that you’re getting in position for tackling, grabbing, pushing, pushing off blockers, those kinds of areas.”
Stotts’ opinion coincides with general information on wrist surgery recovery published on the Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine’s official website.
The “hand and wrist will be bandaged with a well-padded dressing and a splint for support. Physical or occupational therapy sessions may be needed for up to three months after surgery,” according to the Houston Methodist Orthopedics & Sports Medicine clinic.
Stotts said players who have undergone wrist procedures have come back quicker, but he adds caution.
“Best case scenario eight to 10 weeks, maybe,” he said. “But that’s probably pushing it a little bit. I’ve seen some people return quicker, but that’s generally against medical advice or pushing the envelope a little bit.”
Stotts doesn’t believe that would be the case for a player under the Chiefs medical care.
“The good thing for the Chiefs is they have a great training staff that I know will take care of the player’s interest as well as the team’s interest,” Stotts said. “They’ve been great since they got there and they have a good proven track record in terms of they put their players in position to return quickly.”
In the meantime, the Chiefs have decisions to make if Mays is out for an extended period of time.
Mays signed a two-year deal in March and was projected to be the starting left inside linebacker in the team’s 3-4 base defense.
Josh Mauga, who is currently listed second on the depth chart behind Mays, is recovering from a groin injury and missed the last two preseason games.
Second-year pro Nico Johnson started Saturday night’s game against the Minnesota Vikings and shared first-team repetitions with Frank Zombo, who normally plays outside linebacker. Zombo took inside repetitions at inside linebacker during training camp.
The Chiefs also have Derrick Johnson, James-Michael Johnson and Alonzo Highsmith on the roster at right inside linebacker.