KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The best news to come out of the Kansas City Chiefs’ postgame locker room Sunday was that wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster didn’t seem to be seriously injured after being violently knocked from the game in the second quarter.
“Obviously, it was scary when you’re out there, but when you saw him after the game he seemed perfectly normal,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes said when asked if he’d had a chance to see Smith-Schuster after the 27-17 victory. “... He seemed like he was his normal self, giggling around and joking.”
Still, Smith-Schuster’s teammates called the play “illegal,” "scary” and maybe even “dirty” in unanimous agreement that such incidents are unsafe and shouldn’t be part of the game.
“As long as there’s contact to the head, it doesn’t need to be in the game,” Kansas City coach Andy Reid said. “It looked like there was contact to the head from where I was standing, but I’m not the one making that call.”
Initially, referee Brad Rogers’ crew threw a flag on the play after Jacksonville defensive back Andre Cisco leveled Smith-Schuster when he turned upfield after making a catch on a third-down crossing route.
“After the discussion on the field, the two officials came in and determined that the defender had set and braced for impact and hit shoulder-to-shoulder,” Rogers told a pool reporter after the game. “They didn’t feel it was a use-of-helmet foul.”
Replays seemingly confirmed that Cisco hit Smith-Schuster with his left shoulder, but there still appeared to be contact with the receiver’s head.
Smith-Schuster also was considered a defenseless receiver at the time.
Still, the flag was picked up and Rogers confirmed that the on-field decision is not reviewable.
Rogers agreed that Smith-Schuster was a defenseless receiver but said the determination that Cisco didn’t strike with his helmet and didn’t hit him in the head made it a legal play.
“I had no clue," Cisco said when asked if it was a legal hit. "Those hits are — it’s up to the referees. I’m obviously leading with my shoulder. That’s how I hit usually. I’ve seen the replay and it looked like it was close, but no-call.”
The Chiefs disagreed.
“That was illegal,” newly acquired wide receiver Kadarius Toney said.
Mahomes said he “didn’t think there was any ill intent” by Cisco.
“But obviously there was some helmet-to-helmet contact and we want to get that out of the league as much as possible for player safety,” Mahomes said.
He hopes the NFL will review the play and consider adjusting the rule. He didn’t blame Cisco or other defenders in his position, who are simply trying to make a play.
“I know the guy wasn’t trying to [hurt Smith-Schuster] and I know it’s a bang-bang call that doesn’t always go your way,” Mahomes said. “But you want to try to do your best to try to get that stuff out of the league so that we can have those guys playing and being safe.”
Reid also took exception to the explanation that Cisco didn’t hit Smith-Schuster in the head.
“That’s what I tried to explain to the official, guys don’t get hit in the shoulder and lay around like that right there,” Reid said. “There’s more to it. Somewhere, the head was involved, and that’s what the rule was put in for — for that type of thing.”
Smith-Schuster laid limp on the turf for several seconds after the hit. He then rolled onto his back as trainers rushed onto the field to provide medical assistance.
Concerned players from both the Chiefs and Jaguars gathered around inside a hushed GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.
“Seeing him on the ground, it made me mad,” Toney said. “It made me angry. I was kind of mad because I don’t really like dirty plays. But I feel like it gave the team a boost and gave us something to really put on our back, gave us something to play for, I guess you could say.”
After Rogers announced there would be no penalty, the capacity crowd let the officials have it.
Smith-Schuster appeared unsteady on his feet when he finally stood up, but Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Travis Kelce bracketed him with a shoulder to lean on and helped him off the field — a somewhat unusual move as training staff often helps an injured player to the sideline.
“We have a brotherhood here,” Mahomes said. “It’s been fast because it’s been a lot of new guys. But we’re all best friends. We’re doing stuff together every single day, we’re playing Call of Duty at night and we’re guys that want to go out and compete with each other.”
Smith-Schuster — who is second on Kansas City with 46 catches and 615 yards, including two catches for 33 yards Sunday before the injury — did not return after entering the NFL’s concussion protocol.
He will have to clear the concussion protocol before being allowed to play again.
The Chiefs’ next game is at 7:20 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 20, against the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, after the game was flexed to Sunday Night Football on KSHB 41.
Want more insight about the Kansas City Chiefs? The “4th & 1” podcast is the twice-weekly, Chiefs-centric podcast from KSHB 41 News, the official broadcast “Home of the Chiefs.” Analyst Nick Jacobs and host Tod Palmer analyze and breakdown the Chiefs’ opponent and performance for pre- and post-game episodes — available on iTunes, Spotify, Omny or your preferred podcast platform — each week during the season.