"Well, we’ve got a lot of guys doing it right now. We’ve got some guys who have done it in the past, we’ve got some guys who can catch it real well who I’m looking for to see how they actually return it; and we’ve got some guys that probably are pretty good returners but are struggling catching it. We’ve got a lot of options and we’ll have to weed it out. We’ll start to figure that out as we get closer to training camp." -Todd Haley, June 7th, 2009
Saying "a lot of guys" might be an understatement. The Kansas City Chiefs worked on the return game yesterday with three men taking reps as the punt returner - WR Bobby Engram, WR Quinten Lawrence and WR Rodney Wright.
After practice, five more joined for some extra work fielding punts - CB Maurice Leggett, CB Jackie Bates, RB Dantrell Savage, CB Londen Fryar and WR Taurus Johnson.
There's a lot of tryouts for the position, but no one has been tabbed 'the guy.'
Of those eight players, two have experience returning punts. Engram has fielded 102 career punts for a respectable 10.4 yards per return average. But he's only returned two punts in the last three years. Savage is the next most experienced punt returner. In his rookie year, he returned eight punts for a combined 17 yards. Yep, that's 2.1 yards per return.
Maurice Leggett has slight experience returning kicks (five) but no punts.
Jamaal Charles showed some flash returning kicks last season. In 15 returns, he averaged 21.4 yards. But he still hasn't returned a punt in his short career.
Special teams isn't something to be taken lightly during training camp. An efficient, disciplined unit is something Haley has been harping.
"Special teams is going to be big around here", Haley said following OTAs in June. "I’ve made that clear to everybody and everybody says it. But really, the easiest way onto the team is to be one of those guys."
Several media outlets have noted Haley's emphasis on doing the little things right. Here's an example from Mr. Looney at the mothership.
While the majority of the squad was working on punt protection, several return men were lined up deep, practicing returns. When one of the return men botched a "peter" call ("peter" means to get away from the ball, usually on a short punt – go ahead and laugh, football verbiage can be funny), Haley came off of his post at the 50-yard line and sent a stern message to his return men about the importance of field position.
As of now, we only know the question: Who will be the Chiefs punt returner? Soon, we'll get the answer.