Chiefs Considering Not Using Harrison Butker on Kickoffs Due to New NFL Rules

The league's new kickoff rules could have huge ramifications.
Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
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The Kansas City Chiefs are among the first teams to publicly discuss schematic changes in the wake of the NFL’s new kickoff rules for 2024. They likely won’t be the last.

The league’s revised kickoff rules, approved by NFL owners back in March, generated a storm of controversy during its public reception. As part of the new format, kickers may be expected to defend the kickoff return more often, a wrinkle which has given Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub some food for thought.

Rather than use kicker Harrison Butker for all kickoffs this upcoming season, Toub said the team was considering employing a different player in the interest of Butker’s long-term health.

“I like to have somebody that can go back, is able to make a tackle,” Toub said on Thursday. “Butker is able to make a tackle, but I really don’t want him making tackles all year long. If you watch the XFL—we watched every play—I bet kickers were involved in probably at least 25 to 40 percent of the tackles… So we don’t want Butker in that situation.”

Toub compared Butker to safety Justin Reid, who Toub believed could be a bigger difference-maker in kickoffs.

“Justin [Reid] can cover, he can kick, he can go down there and make tackles,” Toub said. “He’s an extra guy that they’re probably not accounting for. A guy like Justin is a guy they have to worry about.”

Butker ranks behind only Justin Tucker as the second-most accurate kicker in NFL history and just capped off his seventh season in Kansas City, in which he connected on 33-of-35 field goals (a career high 94.3%) and was perfect on extra point attempts.

Earlier this month, Butker faced heavy backlash stemming from controversial comments he made during a college commencement speech.

It’s no surprise why the Chiefs would want to keep their star kicker healthy throughout the upcoming season as the team makes its bid for a historic three-peat. The radically changed, hybrid kickoff format is intended to incentivize more returns, though it comes at the cost of increased risk of injury for the kickers, among other variables. The new format will receive a one-year trial and be reevaluated after the 2024-25 season.


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Kristen Wong

KRISTEN WONG

Kristen Wong is a Staff Writer on the Breaking & Trending News Team at Sports Illustrated. She has been a sports journalist since 2020. Before joining SI, Kristen covered four NFL teams as an associate editor with the FanSided NFL Network and worked as a staff writer for the brand’s flagship site. She has written about soccer, the NFL, NBA, and MLB since 2020, and outside of work, has dreams of running her own sporty dive bar.