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On Thursday, Chiefs still unsure about Tyrann Mathieu playing on Sunday

The team’s star safety remains in the COVID protocol as Sunday’s season opener against the Browns approaches.

NFL: AUG 20 Preseason - Chiefs at Cardinals Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Now it is three days until the Kansas City Chiefs host the Cleveland Browns in Game 1 of the 2021 NFL season.

Another day of the week has gone by — and according to the Chiefs, star safety Tyrann Mathieu remains on the team’s Reserve/COVID-19 list. Mathieu was first reported to be in the COVID protocol on September 1.

As we noted on Wednesday, since the safety is reported to be vaccinated, he can return to the team after two negative tests 24 hours apart — as long as he is asymptomatic. Chiefs head coach Andy Reid said on Wednesday that Mathieu was “getting better,” but he has still yet to practice this week.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday afternoon, defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo explained that the team still does not know if he would be able to play on Sunday.

“It’s up in the air right now — and that’s a little bit challenging to game plan for — but we’ve got plan A and plan B,” noted Spagnuolo. “We would handle it no differently, obviously, than somebody getting hurt in the middle of the game. Guys [have] got to be ready to step up.

“The advantage we have versus that particular scenario is we’re practicing with guys that we think might have to play, so we’ll move guys around, do what we have to, try to do most of the things that we do with Tyrann — but certainly some of those things are going to change and some of the calls might alter because of that.”

Spagnuolo seemed to think that even if Mathieu were to miss practice on Friday as well, he might still be able to suit up against the Browns anyway.

“That’s always — we don’t know, right?” he admitted. “But this dude we’re talking about is a special guy, in my opinion. So we’ll see — but I think we’ve got to be fair to him. We always say that sometimes, you’ve got to protect the players from themselves — so we’ll be careful there. Coach Reid and I have talked about it with [vice president of sports medicine and performance] Rick Burkholder. We’ll see where we’re at when the time comes.”

With Mathieu out of the building, the Chiefs have relied on familiar technology to keep him up to date on their game plan to handle Baker Mayfield and the Browns.

“Thank God we’re way ahead in this whole Zoom thing,” said Spagnuolo. “Otherwise, we’d be trying to figure that out, so the camera sits right in front of me as I address the [team]. And he’s right there. I get to talk to him a little bit in the meetings, but he hasn’t missed a beat. Certainly, he’s champing at the bit, as you could imagine. He just loves playing his game — and he misses his guys. So we’ll find out.”

If Mathieu can’t play against the Browns, the expected starters at safety would be Daniel Sorensen and Juan Thornhill. The team’s other defensive leaders might then need to fill that off-the-field void.

“Nothing really changes for us [on the field],” explained defensive lineman Chris Jones. “[Mathieu’s] presence would be missed; what he brings to this team would be missed and his leadership would be missed — but I put faith in our guys on the back end, that we’ve got guys that could step in and play real football, guys on this team that have been in situations where they have played in the Super Bowl game unexpectedly because of a situation. So I’m definitely comfortable with the guys we’ve got if anything extraordinary happens where T5 [Mathieu] can’t play.”