When the Kansas City Chiefs travel to Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park, New York to face the Buffalo Bills in Sunday’s Divisional Round playoff matchup, running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire will be returning to the site of his best career game.
During his rookie season, the 32nd overall selection of the 2020 NFL Draft rushed for 161 yards in the Week 6 road matchup against the Bills. Speaking in the locker room on Wednesday, Edwards-Helaire expressed confidence in returning to Buffalo — and playing a very familiar opponent.
“We knew what we had going into the game,” he said of his breakthrough outing three years ago. “Buffalo is not a team we haven’t seen. Obviously, I’ve played them every year I’ve been here. It's one of those things you kind of — not necessarily get used to them — but [there’s] familiar faces with some guys on that end. They know [how] we play, and we know how they play. You kind of bite your mouthpiece and roll with it.”
After struggling much of the year, the Chiefs’ first-team offense has been more effective in recent weeks. Edwards-Helaire believes that’s because quarterback Patrick Mahomes has been improving his rapport with the team’s receivers.
“We go as a wave,” he said of the offense. “Pat and the wideouts started clicking on all cylinders. We all know it starts with the guys up front. As soon as those guys get to rolling, then we’re good.”
Last season, Edwards-Helaire lost his starting job to rookie Isiah Pacheco — and then in 2023, he was relegated to being the third back behind veteran Jerick McKinnon. But down the stretch run of the season, injuries to both McKinnon and Pacheco gave him opportunities to play — and after his career had appeared to be all but done, the LSU product had respectable showings.
As the Chiefs navigate the postseason, Edwards-Helaire sees his versatility as a strength.
“I’m a guy that can run outside [or] in between the tackles,” he declared. “I can do everything. I feel like I’m a Swiss Army knife in any situation. It’s not one of those things where I feel like I’m changing anything. I’m an athlete who’s able to adapt in situations that I’m in. That’s why I’m here.”
While Edward-Helaire did not amass impressive counting stats in Saturday’s 26-7 Wild Card round victory over the Miami Dolphins, he made a key reception that helped set up Pacheco’s touchdown that effectively sealed the win. The Louisiana native explained that a side hobby helped him brave the elements during the fourth-coldest game in NFL history.
“I was hearing a lot of that — about it being cold and everybody talking about the cold,” Edwards-Helaire recalled. “I really didn’t bat an eye to it. Everybody was coming to me talking about, ‘You’re a guy from Louisiana’ and all those other things. I went out with no sleeves, a couple of layers and kind of manned up.
“It’s just what it is. I hunt. I don’t mind being in the cold, duck hunting, sitting in the water. If I can go out there and make some money playing football — the game that I love — I don’t give a s—t how cold it is. I’m going to roll.”
Last week, Edwards-Helaire appeared in a short video posted to the team’s official TikTok account. In the segment, the running back joked that he was the teammate most qualified to watch after the children of his teammates — because he is in nursing school and knows how to treat injuries.
While he still loves playing football, Edwards-Helaire confirmed that he is preparing for a career after the sport.
“It’s something I’ve been pursuing since I started college,” he said of nursing school. “I wasn’t able to do the nursing things because being at LSU and playing football, I would have to do LSU at New Orleans. I was not necessarily planning to leave early, but I had the opportunity to. Now I’m back at school, rolling, football is one of those things that’s kind of getting me in this position. I’m using my brain and meeting on what I can do on the back end helping people.”
Edwards-Helaire has personal reasons for choosing nursing as his next career.
“It’s close to my heart,” he explained. “My mom is a nurse, and my little sister was born with muscular dystrophy. Football is football, but I know [the] profession [that] I want to do with the rest of my life.”
Of course, being an NFL player is a full-time job. Edwards-Helaire’s ability to handle multiple workloads can vary as the season goes along. Setting up a program — and scheduling it — is important.
“I had a lot of online things,” he said. “Just the whole ordeal with starting school, I just feel like I had a little more time at the beginning of the season.
“I wasn’t playing that much and wasn’t doing anything, so I was just like, ‘Cool. I’m going to start school.’ I’m punching it and rolling through now. It’s kind of enjoyable because it kind of feels like college. There’s nothing to really do out here when it’s snowing, so I’m not doing anything else but leaving work and then going through school stuff.
“Shout out to my fiancé. She’s kind of helping me with the scheduling ordeal. All that’s been a headache.”
Edwards-Helaire then ended his media session with an advertisement.
“In the future,” he said with a smile, “if y’all need some shots or IVs or anything, holler at your boy.”