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Heading into 2023, the Chiefs’ Harrison Butker says his ankle feels great

Kansas City’s placekicker has been working with a biomechanist after an ankle injury plagued him last season.

Super Bowl LVII - Kansas City Chiefs v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

There are a lot of people who have worse jobs than Kansas City Chiefs’ placekicker Harrison Butker. In fact, he’ll be the first to admit it.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Butker of his second Super Bowl win after Saturday’s training camp practice at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. “When you have a kick that’s pretty instrumental in winning the game? [It] obviously wasn’t the game-winning kick, but when you have a kick like that, you have a lot of people that want to hear what you have to say and what you want to talk about. So to be able to be put on that platform — on that stage — is very humbling.”

While his humility is refreshing, Butker is talking semantics. You don’t get much closer to a game-winning field goal than converting a 27-yard attempt with eight seconds left on the clock to put your team ahead 38-35.

Butker admitted that he sometimes wonders if it isn’t all a dream.

“I almost have to pinch myself sometimes,” he revealed, “to tell myself that this is real.”

Part of Butker's success down the stretch of his team’s championship season was due to rethinking his approach as he rehabbed from his Week 1 ankle injury against the Arizona Cardinals.

“I think the way I’m kicking now more resembles how I was kicking after the injury,” he explained. “I thought I finished up the season well; I felt good [and] felt consistent. And that’s kind of how I’m kicking the ball now — and I think I’m kicking better [in] this training camp than I even did [in the] last training camp before the injury.”

Butker said his main adjustment has been to take a little bit off of his kicks.

“I’m not trying to destroy the ball,” he said. “I’m just trying to make sure it goes through the uprights... I think if you’re swinging super hard it makes it hard to be consistent. So I feel like I’m in a good rhythm right now.”

Last season, Butker also employed a biomechanist, who helped him by analyzing his movements.

“He helped me a lot with working on my plant foot,” he said, “making sure I wasn’t bending my knee a ton on the plants so that I could get more power.”

One of the things he discovered was that he could learn from what athletes in other sports do — like comparing placekicking to a baseball pitcher’s delivery.

“If they are a right-handed pitcher,” he observed, “when they land on that left foot before they throw the ball, there’s not a lot of knee bend. If anything, they are trying to keep that knee straight so they can get a lot of torque in their hips.”

Ultimately though, the main point of emphasis was making sure his ankle was back to 100%. To do this, Butker took an entire month off from kicking — and when he returned, he eased himself back into it by limiting himself to kicking only once or twice a week.

“I knew if I’m going to have a good season this year,” he said of his reasoning, “I need to make sure I’m fully healed up.”

He also discovered it wasn’t just about getting his ankle back into shape.

“One thing you don’t realize,” he recalled, “is when you come into Week 1 and you hurt your ankle — and then you’re out for four or five weeks — [you’re] not able to do that same sprint work, [not] able to do the same heavy lifting — all of those things.”

Ultimately, that led to pain elsewhere in his body.

“So now your hip’s bothering you, your hip flexor [and] your groin,” he said. “All these small muscles that normally you’re fine with are bothering you because you lost so much of your base by getting injured early on.

“I really had to recover from a lot of different things. [But] now, I’m feeling great.”

“It’s great to have him where he’s at,” special teams coordinator Dave Toub told reporters on Saturday. “I mean, obviously, he came back from the injury last year, you know, towards the end of the year. I think he is feeling a lot better. Now it’s way behind him.”

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