Chiefs’ Harrison Butker may be sidelined for kickoffs this season as team adjusts to new rules

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Harrison Butker was the talk of the sports world for weeks last month. And as the Kansas City Chiefs begin offseason organized team activities (OTAs), he may be sitting out kickoffs.

Not because of anything he’s said or done. It’s because of the NFL’s new rules that have special teams coordinator Dave Toub intrigued.

In March, NFL owners agreed to overhaul kickoff rules and take a page out of the XFL.

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Harrison Butker talks to reporters

Harrison Butker of the Kansas City Chiefs speaks to the media ahead of the Super Bowl at Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort and Spa Feb. 8, 2024, in Henderson, Nev. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

For the basic kickoff, the ball would be kicked from the 35-yard line with 10 other members on special teams lined up at the opposing 40-yard line. Five players will be lined up on each side of the field.

The return team will have at least nine blockers lined up in the so-called “set-up zone” between the 30- and 35-yard line. At least seven of those players will be touching the 35-yard line. Two returners will be allowed inside their own 20-yard line.

Only the kicker and two returners would be allowed to move until either the ball hits the ground or is touched by a returner inside the 20-yard line. A kick that reaches the end zone in the air can either be returned or the returning team could opt for a touchback. In that case, the team receives the ball at the 30-yard line. If the ball goes out of the end zone, it will result in a touchback at the 30.

If a ball hits a returner or the ground before the end zone, and it goes into the end zone, a touchback would be at the 20-yard line or the kick could be returned.

Justin Reid kickoff

Safety Justin Reid (20) of the Kansas City Chiefs kicks the ball during a game against the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium Sept. 11, 2022, in Glendale, Ariz. (Norm Hall/Getty Images)

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The Chiefs have utilized defensive back Justin Reid as a kicker in the past, and Toub admitted Thursday he’s toyed with the idea of doing it again.

“I’d like to have somebody that could go back and is able to make a tackle. Butker’s able to make a tackle, but I really don’t want him making tackles all year long.,” Toub said, pointing out that XFL kickers last year were involved in trying to tackle returners.

“Justin can cover, he can kick, which he can do. And then he can go down there and make tackles. He’s an extra guy that they’re probably not accounting for. They know that that guy can go down (there) and tackle. But a guy like Justin is a guy that they have to worry about. They have to get him blocked, and they have to give up blocking somebody else so that’s the whole thought of that.”

Dave Toub at training camp

Kansas City Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub during training camp Aug. 7, 2022, at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph, Mo. (Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

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Butker proved to be the hero in the Chiefs’ 2024 Super Bowl victory over the San Francisco 49ers. He nailed a 29-yard field goal to send the game into overtime.

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