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‘Little Man’ Jerick McKinnon will have big role protecting Mahomes on Sunday

Kansas City’s veteran tailback talked about pass protection ahead of Sunday’s game against Cincinnati.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Kansas City Chiefs Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is expected to be at less than full strength with a high ankle sprain in Sunday’s AFC Championship game against the Cincinnati Bengals. But running back Jerick McKinnon cherishes his role in keeping his quarterback safe in the pocket.

“He’s gonna give you everything he has,” the journeyman back said of Mahomes on Thursday.

“When you see something like that, it does nothing but inspire you,” McKinnon said of the quarterback’s play after being injured in Saturday’s Divisional Round game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. “Everybody on the sideline, everybody in the organization… we all know what he brings to this team.”

McKinnon’s professionalism and preparedness brought Kansas City success down the stretch. A streak of six games with a receiving touchdown to close the regular season made him an easy choice to become the AFC’s offensive player of the month for December and January.

Entering Sunday’s game, McKinnon says the focus is making Mahomes’ job as easy as possible.

“Just stay on top of my keys — knowing what protections are called,” he explained. “Making sure everybody’s on the same page and doing whatever it takes to keep Pat clean in the pocket… get those guys on the outside the opportunity to make plays.”

Officially listed at 5-foot-9, McKinnon knows he’ll have a challenge when matching up against the big men from Cincinnati’s pass rush on Sunday.

“You gotta be a little crooked in the mind, for sure,” the running back said of his pass protection duties.

But McKinnon believes he understands why it is appealing to him.

“I have a little man syndrome,” he smiled, as his listeners laughed. “I don’t know. Maybe that’s what it is.

“It was something I had never done in college. So obviously, coming into the league — it being new — it was something that I had to work at. I accepted the challenge. It’s got me this far — [and] It’s something that’s going to keep [me] around as a running back in this league.

“So I take big pride in that — in that area — more than running and catching the ball.”

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