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Analyzing Kadarius Toney’s knee injury

Kansas City’s No. 1 wide receiver has had a surgical repair to a torn meniscus.

NFL: JUL 23 Kansas City Chiefs Training Camp Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Kansas City Chiefs — and specifically wide receiver Kadarius Toney — were dealt an unfavorable hand at the start of training camp: Toney suffered a knee injury at the opening practice. Later in the week, head coach Andy Reid revealed that Toney had suffered a torn meniscus — and had already undergone surgery.

This is the latest in a line of injuries that Toney has suffered during the first two years of his NFL career. With the New York Giants and the Chiefs, the talented receiver has only been available for 19 of 37 possible games. Toney has previously undergone an arthroscopic procedure for his knee in May of 2022.

Fortunately for the Chiefs, the injury occurred early in training camp, so Toney will have more time to recover before the regular season. According to Reid, “there’s a chance” he’ll be available for the team’s Week 1 game against the Detroit Lions.

Given the injury and timeline for rehabbing it, how likely is it that Toney will be able to do that?

Analyzing the injury, surgery, and rehab

A meniscus tear typically occurs with forceful planting or pivoting of the leg — and most often when an athlete twists their knee while their foot is planted on the ground and the knee is bent.

The meniscus serves as cartilage to cushion the knee joint between the femur (thigh bone) and tibia (shin bone). The medial meniscus is at the inner knee while the lateral meniscus is the cushion for the outer knee. Reports have shed no light on which of these Toney tore last Sunday.

Symptoms of a torn meniscus include pain, swelling, difficulty extending the knee and clicking (or locking) of the knee. Considering that Toney is a shifty runner — along with his previous injury history — it was likely necessary for the procedure to be done as quickly as possible so that Toney would have a longer rehab period before the regular season.

The surgery for a torn meniscus is a simple (and minimally invasive) arthroscopic procedure. Given the timeline Reid has given us — and the fact that Toney has previously undergone an arthroscopic procedure — it is likely that it was more of a debridement (clean-up) that shaved off the torn portion of the meniscus.

Following meniscus surgery, it typically requires an athlete anywhere from six weeks to three months to return to the field at full capacity; the length of time depends on the severity of the injury and surgical factors. Since Reid has given us a glimmer of hope that Toney could be available for the regular season in five weeks, it’s likely that this procedure was relatively minor.

Toney and the athletic training team will be working on gaining (and maintaining) a full range of motion for the knee — along with quadriceps control — while also working on stability and balance training. There will be a gradual return to running, jumping and cutting.

The bottom line

It’s clear that Toney will not be available for preseason games; even if he were healthy, the Chiefs would not be likely to expose him to a lot of injury risk in matchups that don’t count. This will also provide valuable playing opportunities for others in the team’s young wide receiver corps.

Although it is possible for Toney to be available in Week 1, that would be a very quick recovery from this surgery. The opening game being on Thursday night could also be a factor. Given the 10 days of rest that follow the matchup, the training staff might feel comfortable giving him a limited role — or on the flip side, they could simply decide to sit him for another 10 days of rehab.

Now that he has the confidence of his head coach and quarterback, Toney comes into this season poised for a larger role in Kansas City’s offense. Getting glimpses of him doing his rehab over the remainder of the preseason will go a long way in determining his readiness to fulfill that potential.

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