Will Chiefs have someone besides Harrison Butker kick off? ‘It’s a natural fit’

Nick Tre. Smith/Special to the Star

Once upon time in football, kickers played other positions, too.

Lou “The Toe” Groza wore the No. 76 of an offensive tackle. Doak Walker was a halfback, George Blanda a quarterback.

Kicking was their side-hustle.

Kicking specialists have since come along and changed the game, but the Chiefs appear willing to take an old-school approach to a new development in the league’s kickoff rules.

The NFL is poised to radically change the formation for kickoffs, and the two-time Super Bowl-champion Chiefs are looking at candidates not named Harrison Butker to kick off the ball this fall.

Safety Justin Reid is not only a willing kicker, but an able one, as well. And it took little convincing on his part for Chiefs coaches to give him a shot during spring practices.

“It was already understood without having to say it out loud,” Reid said. “Every year I try and kick. I just like doing it for fun.”

Reid has kicked in games for the Chiefs before. When Butker was injured during the 2022 season opener at Arizona, Reid handled kickoff duties. Five of his seven kicks resulted in touchbacks and he was 1 for 2 on extra points.

Reid also attempted two kickoffs for the Houston Texans during preseason games in 2021. And although he never got to kick in college at Stanford, he handled placekicking duties for his team in high school.

Now he’s spending time working on kickoffs under the direction of Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub.

The NFL’s new rules are intended to return action to kickoffs while at the same time attempting to reduce injuries. The ball will still be teed up at the 35-yard line. But the 10 other members of the kicking team will line up at the receiving team’s 40-yard line.

A minimum of nine members of the receiving team will line up between the 30- and 35-yard lines, with one or two back as returners.

After the kick, plays begins when the ball is either caught or hits the ground in the landing zone (between the receiving team’s 20-yard line and goal line) or is returned from the end zone.

Toub and the Chiefs are thinking, why have Butker kicking off and risking injury on a tackle when a player like Reid could kick and give his team an additional good defender on the field?

The trick for Reid is to kick the ball where the Chiefs want it placed, or to have it go out of bounds.

“As long as the ball is in play and we have an extra guy running down there like a heat-seeking missile, good things are going to happen,” Reid said.

In two years with the Chiefs, Reid has started 33 regular-season games and all seven playoff games while playing 98% of KC’s defensive snaps. He was the Chiefs’ leading tackler last season and is their most experienced defensive back.

He’s a busy guy, in other words. But he is also ready to add to his duties.

“I’d love to,” Reid said. “It’s a natural fit. Maybe we can turn it into a weapon this year.”