The Kansas City Chiefs turned a few heads on Tuesday when they signed punter Johnny Townsend — the older brother of their current punter Tommy Townsend — to their practice squad.
The elder Townsend spent a season with the Las Vegas Raiders after being chosen in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL draft, but he hasn’t stuck with an NFL team since then — even though he still holds the second-best yards-per-punt number (46.2) in SEC history from his time as a Florida Gator.
Did the move mean that the Chiefs had cooled on Tommy? Or that he had been injured in some way? According to special teams coordinator Dave Toub, neither of those things are true.
“It was a really good idea by Brett Veach to bring a guy in — just in case the COVID thing hits us,” Toub explained to reporters on Thursday. “[If it] hits one of our guys, we have a guy that’s in the building — tested — that we can just plug in there and plug and play.”
Toub was speaking of a nightmare scenario for an NFL team during the coronavirus pandemic: one of your kickers has to go on the reserve/COVID list late in the week before a game. As we’ve seen, a new player has to undergo three days of testing before they can even enter a team facility — much less suit up for a game. If your placekicker or punter tests positive on Friday, what can you do?
“[Johnny Townsend] is a guy that can come in and punt for us — [or] be a holder. If Harrison Butker went down with COVID — if he was out — then we would probably kick with Tommy and then Johnny would be the holder. They’re interchangeable parts; one guy can do a lot of things and that’s why we have him here. It’s a pretty good idea by Veach.”
So with Johnny Townsend on the practice squad, the Chiefs will have a backup punter, holder and placekicker all rolled into one. If Tommy Townsend can’t go, Johnny steps in for him as a punter and holder. If Butker is out, then Tommy handles all the kicking — historically, it’s not that unusual for punters to step in for placekickers in an emergency situation — with Johnny serving as the holder. If both Butker and Tommy are out, then Johnny can do all the kicking. Toub would then just have to get someone on the team ready to serve as the holder.
But Toub pushed back on the idea that Johnny might become a holding specialist.
“He’s a practice-squad player that we would work in practice — [an] ‘in case of emergency’ guy, strictly,” he declared. “I don’t think there would ever be a situation where he would come in for Tommy unless we needed it — unless we had to have it. But it’s a good luxury to have a guy like that — that we can plug in — and I’ll tell you, he’s a really good fit, too.”