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Chiefs name punt and kick returners, plus other special teams notes

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Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub announced who will run the ball back for the team this season.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at Chicago Bears Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

It seemed as if the Kansas City Chiefs may replace wide receiver Tyreek Hill as their punt returner two weeks ago.

Special teams coordinator Dave Toub said at the time there had been internal conversations on whether or not it would be smartest to hand those duties to someone else, as doing so could prevent injury to one of the organization’s most important players.

But Uncle Dave reaffirmed Hill would keep his punt-return job on Thursday afternoon.

“Tyreek is such a threat, just having him lined up in there,” Toub said at his first weekly press conference of the regular season. “It causes teams to really consider, ‘Do I really want to punt it to him? Or do I want to punt it out of bounds?’ That’s the first thought you want to have for a punt team. He’s going to create [a favorable] field position no matter what happens. He’s such a threat.

“If he catches the ball, he can score at any time. He’s too big of a factor to not have him in there. We’re going to be smart about it though, too, as well, situations—if it’s not right, or he’s tired, we got other options.”

Toub also named WR De’Anthony Thomas and rookie cornerback Tremon Smith as the team’s kick returners.

“Between those two, we’ll just keep switching them in and out depending on situations,” Toub said of Thomas and Smith. “Tyreek, obviously, in special situations, could be a kick returner as well.”

Other special teams notes

  • Toub said new safety Jordan Lucas “is a veteran special teams player.” Lucas will play all four phases of special teams for the Chiefs, per Toub.
  • Toub said it won’t be easy replacing veteran linebacker Frank Zombo, who the Chiefs cut, on special teams: “He’s going to be sorely missed. For five years, he’s been a four-phase starter and leader for our team. Any time that happens, it’s a loss and everybody’s feeling it right now, but at the same time, that’s the way the game is played. That’s the NFL. That’s the way it is. Everybody understands that. There’s going to be a new guy. It could be Ben Niemann, who could be our next Zombo.” Toub added that is his expectation for Niemann.
  • Toub provided some insight as to why he always speaks so highly of De’Anthony Thomas: “If you really watch what he does on kickoff ... he makes all the tackles. If it breaks, he’s in on a tackle. He’s a tough guy. I can throw him in at gunner, he can play gunner and he gives me great reps there. Punt return? If he’s not the punt returner, he can play corner. He can lock down the gunners. He’s so valuable to me because he’s fast, he’s tough and he’s a good blocker and he’s relentless. That’s why I really like him.”