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Harrison Butker brings stability back to the Chiefs kicking game

The six-year pro returned from his ankle injury in a big way on Sunday for the Chiefs.

NFL: OCT 16 Bills at Chiefs Photo by Nick Tre. Smith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Despite their home loss against the Buffalo Bills this past Sunday, the Kansas City Chiefs came away with at least one positive from the game: the return of their kicker Harrison Butker.

Butker resumed his starting duties for the Chiefs after missing five games due to an ankle injury he sustained in Week 1 against the Arizona Cardinals. Butker said he was feeling better in recent weeks, but he wanted to be 100% healthy to ensure the injury did not hinder his kicking ability throughout the season. He looked healthy in his first game back, converting two of his three field goal attempts as well as both of his extra points.

“I’m good,” Butker told reporters when asked how his ankle was feeling. “I wanted to make sure [that] I was able to play a whole game without getting any setbacks and I was able to do that. So, I was really happy with going into the game, kicking relatively well and waking up Monday still feeling good and ready for a good week of practice.”

Before his injury, Butker never missed a game in his six-year career with the Chiefs. He is a model of consistency for the team and as reliable as can be, with a career 89.9% conversion rate on field goals.

Consistency is the key to Butker’s approach to kicking, so he wanted to confirm he had his rhythm in check before returning to live, in-game situations.

“The concern wasn’t the distance,” said Butker. “I felt like I was hitting the ball far enough. It’s just making sure that I can repeat that every single kick because when you do kind of have an injury – it might just be completely mental – you are kind of thinking about it a little bit. So, the only concern – if there was one – was just the consistency of being able to do that for a whole game.”

While Butker was out with injury, previously monotonous kicking attempts became more of a nervous experience for the Chiefs as they scrambled through several players to fill in his place.

During Week 1, safety Justin Reid was forced into action as the emergency kicker and performed admirably, kicking 1-of-2 on extra pints while striking several kickoffs deep into the endzone for touchbacks. In Week 2, Matt Ammendola was elevated from the practice squad, but he would be released by the team two weeks later after missing a crucial field goal and an extra point attempt in Week 3’s loss against the Indianapolis Colts.

Matthew Wright handled kicking duties from there, going a perfect 8-for-8 on extra points while converting three of his four field-goal attempts – one of which momentarily set a Chiefs’ record for the franchise’s longest field goal.

Butker’s absence left behind instability at the kicker position, which only emphasizes his importance to the team. His first field-goal attempt on Sunday validated that in a big way as he boomed a 62-yard field goal to end the first half, quickly replacing Wright’s week-old record for the longest field goal in Chiefs’ history.

“It’s funny, after the game, Tommy [Townsend] told Matt [Wright] that, ‘You should keep that ball that you made the 59-yard field goal with – get it painted – Chiefs record’,” Butker recounted. “And Matt said – funny enough – to him, ‘Oh, I’m not going to get that because Butker’s going to break it the next week.’

“So, it kind of came true, and I was able to break that record, but it is funny. A lot of guys were saying to me about Matthew breaking the record in basically his second game here. As a kicker, you can only do as best as you can with the opportunities you’re given, right?

So, ‘Oh Matthew Wright broke the record,’ I can’t force (special teams coordinator) [Dave] Toub or (head coach) [Andy] Reid to put me out there for a longer field goal – that’s just kind of what the game provided me. Tommy and James [Winchester] did a great job, and I was able to go hit it.”

Chiefs’ fans everywhere breathed a sigh of relief as they welcomed the return of their dependable kicker the moment the ball crossed the uprights. However, for Butker, he knew he was back as soon as the ball left his foot from 62 yards away – confidently turning to the team’s bench while the ball was still in the air.

“You know it’s funny; I do that a lot of times,” Butker said with a smile. “I know it’s going to go through, and I just want to do something and yeah – it just kind of happens.”

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