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Dave Toub discusses Chiefs’ returner carousel

The club has featured five different returners during the 2023 NFL season.

NFL: MAY 07 Chiefs Rookie Camp Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Due to injury and otherwise, the Kansas City Chiefs have featured five different kick and punt returners during the 2023 season. And now, with Mecole Hardman being placed on injured reserve entering last Sunday, Kansas City has gone back to its original returner in his comeback from injury: Richie James.

“We’ve had some injuries, obviously, with Mecole,” said Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub on Thursday. “We planned on using Mecole, but then that changed. [Kadarius Toney] got in there, and he provided a spark. He’s probably our most dynamic guy. That’s easy to say that now, seeing what he can do. But he was banged up last week, and I’m not sure how much I’m going to be able to use him.

“Richie’s back in the mix, so Richie, I felt good about it before he got hurt earlier in the year, so it will be Richie James. That’s where we’re at right now.”

With Kansas City trailing 14-0 against Las Vegas, James returned a kick 29 yards, which helped begin the team’s comeback and eventual 31-17 win.

“It’s good to have him back because he can do both,” added Toub of James. “He’s a guy that I depend on. He’s a solid catcher. I think he’s going to keep getting better. I always tell the guys, ‘This is return season now. We got five cold games in a row coming up here, starting with Green Bay, and we’re going to get a lot of returns. We’re going to get the ball kicked to us. Squibb kicks could happen, and then we got to cover kicks, too.’”

Toub anticipates a steep challenge in managing Packers returner Keisean Nixon on “Sunday Night Football.” Nixon is averaging 8.8 yards per punt return and 26.8 yards per kick return.

Nixon’s 105-yard kick return for a touchdown in 2022 against the Minnesota Vikings helped lead him to a first-team All-Pro nod.

“If [Harrison] Butker can’t hit a touchback, [the Packers are] going to try to return it, particularly this team because they have the green light to come out,” said Toub. “Nixon is excellent. He’ll come out five, eight [yards] deep sometimes. So we have to be ready for that. We’re excited that Richie’s back and in the fold and healthy and good to go.”

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