Kansas City Chiefs placekicker Harrison Butker should be feeling secure in his job. Almost five years have elapsed since Kansas City plucked him from the Carolina Panthers’ practice squad. When he steps on the field during the Monday Night Football matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders, he will become the Chiefs’ longest-tenured placekicker since Nick Lowery left to join the New York Jets in 1994 — and Butker’s five-year contract runs through the 2024 season.
Butker has earned the team’s trust. He is now the most-accurate placekicker in the team’s history — making 90.1% of his field goals for the Chiefs — but he’s still working to find ways to improve.
“There are some technique changes I made really early on after the season that I think have contributed to more power,” he told reporters after Wednesday’s training camp practice at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. “I feel like I’m a more efficient kicker. I’ve always swung really hard, but the ball hasn’t necessarily gone as far as I feel like it should — for a guy that’s 6-feet-4 — I think, relatively [explosively].
“I think [on] kickoffs, my leg power shows — but on field goals, I think I’ve just changed some technique stuff so I’m even more efficient. I think the ball is going as far as it ever has for field goals.”
Unless the right circumstances line up, Butker won’t get a chance to conclusively prove it — but just the same, he now believes that in a game, he could make a field goal in excess of 70 yards.
“I feel like I’m hitting 63 yards into the wind,” he said. “When [the] wind’s at my back, we’ve gone 70, 72. [During warmups] in that Chicago game [on Saturday], we made 68, [but] 74 was a little short. But I feel like I have a lot of distance now — and that’ll hopefully come up this season.”
One thing that does come up every season, however, is that some people believe that Butker’s job is easy — that even they could do it. After Kansas City safety Justin Reid drilled an extra-point attempt during Saturday’s preseason game against the Chicago Bears, they might have felt even better about their chances.
“You have so many people that hit you up on Twitter [and] Instagram, saying, ‘Hey, man, I’m going to take your job because I made a kick on a high school field,’ right?” laughed Butker. “But to do it in a game? That’s super impressive. These stadiums can generate wind. Fields can be different. He went out there and made the kick when pressure was on — and nobody blocked the kick.
“So I’m super-pumped for him. I know how difficult that is to go out there and execute — when he doesn’t really practice it.”
Butker said that he first learned of Reid’s desire to serve as a kicker during the offseason program.
“It was in Phase II [when] he got a kick in the indoor [facility],” he recalled. “He told me, ‘I love the specialists. I kicked a lot with Ka’imi [Fairbairn] with the Houston Texans.’ I think I’d seen some videos of him kicking. But in the indoor, he was just bombing balls with a lot of height — so I knew he had a big leg.
“I just thought, you know, he just wanted to kick some footballs — and just naturally has the technique.”
But then Butker learned that Reid had been a soccer player before he took up football — giving him the chance to learn the “rhythm and technique” of kicking. Now, he said, Reid just needs to fine-tune how he does it.
And somewhat surprisingly, Butker doesn’t seem to mind that another player is moving in on his turf — and welcomes the idea that he and punter Tommy Townsend could help him.
“If I were him,” he said of his defensive teammate, “I’d just take advantage of Tommy and me and learn as much as he can from us — ‘cause he made an extra point when the pressure was on in preseason.
“I’m all for evolving the game of kicking and pushing the limits. So to have more people that are enthusiastic about being kickers? I’m all for it.”