The Buffalo Bills (12-3) need all the help they can get when they take on the Cincinnati Bengals in what’s being described across the league as the best, most highly-anticipated Monday Night Football matchup in NFL history. While the Bills opened as a 1.5-point underdog, head coach Sean McDermott offered a major update on the team’s offense which could close that gap.
During a press conference on Wednesday, December 29, McDermott delivered great news concerning center Mitch Morse, whose possible return this season remained unknown after he suffered a concussion during Buffalo’s 32-29 win over the Miami Dolphins in Week 15. Morse’s heady injury was deeply concerning not just because he’s the Bills’ most important offensive lineman, but because it was the 30-year-old’s sixth recorded concussion since he entered the NFL.
However, Syracuse.com‘s Matt Parrino tweeted, “Morse has been cleared from the concussion protocol and will be a FULL participant in practice today, Sean McDermott says. Huge news as the #Bills begin prep for the Bengals today.”
At practice, Morse was seen wearing extra protection over his head with a Guardian cap. The soft-shell helmet offers another layer of padding which reduces impact up 33.3% per Guardian’s official website.
Morse, who was named to his first Pro Bowl this year, did not play during the Bills’ Christmas Eve victory over the Bears in Week 16, nor did he travel with the team to Chicago. Discovering Morse will be able to return after missing just one game allows Bills Mafia to breathe out a huge sigh of relief.
Due to the former second-round pick from the 2015 NFL Draft’s extended history with head injuries, fans were praying for his recovery. One woman tweeted, “We are thinking about him. We love him so very much. It’s just not the same without him. He is a huge part of our team. Sending him healing prayers and thoughts of you and the family. He deserves to be playing in all his glory.”
Fans Were Worried This Concussion May Lead to an Early Retirement
Morse quickly become a fan favorite in Buffalo after spending the first four years of his career with the Kansas City Chiefs, and in March, signed a two-year, $19.5 million contract extension that will keep him under contract through the 2024 NFL season. Following his latest concussion, however, fans were worried this might be it for Morse.
One person tweeted, “This is very concerning moving forward for his personal health. Could this be career ending?” to which Banged Up Bills responded, “Impossible to say. He understands what he’s signed up for and he’s spoken with doctors about his long term health.”
One man tweeted, “Mitch Morse has to be thinking about retirement at this point. 30 years old, 6th documented concussion,” to which one fan responded, “He has to… guy has a wife and kids. Hope he makes the right decision.”
Fans remain concerned over Morse’s health even after he clear concussion protocol this week. One person tweeted on Wednesday, “I’d sit him either way…too many concussions and 1 seed isn’t worth his life,” while another fan wrote, “Great news but I feel like this will be his final season.”
ESPN Analyst Says This Bills vs. Bengals Matchup Feels Like the ‘Super Bowl’
After Morse’s second-half exit during the Bills’ matchup against the Dolphins, his absence was immediately felt. Bills quarterback Josh Allen scored zero points in the third quarter, and literally put the game into his own hands to eke out the win.
Having Morse back on the offensive line against the Bengals will be invaluable for Allen, as the team is fighting to hold onto the No. 1 seed in the AFC and clinch home-field advantage when they travel to Paycor Stadium. With two of the most explosive quarterbacks in the league facing off, Allen and Joe Burrow, even ESPN analyst Joe Buck gets chills thinking about it.
“We’ve (he and Troy Aikman) never called a game in the AFC with this much on the line in our 21 years,” Buck said, per The Athletic. “You hoped when the schedule came out that it would come down to something like this, but there’s so many different factors involved that rarely does it get there, whether it’s an injury or one team doesn’t play as well as you think it will. But this feels like an AFC Championship Game to me. I was just thinking about the game, and I got that rush of nerves and excitement that I would typically get the week of the Super Bowl. It was a great feeling to have.”