Discussing the players on the Kansas City Chiefs’ lengthy injury list ahead of Chicago Bears’ week, head coach Andy Reid noted that wide receiver Richie James is the only one in danger of missing extended time. One of the major issues of James being sidelined with an MCL issue is that he serves the club as its kick and punt returners.
Questioned about the “next man up” on Thursday, special teams coordinator Dave Toub named four possibilities.
“I got a lot of options,” started Toub. “[Kadarius] Toney, obviously, Skyy [Moore], [Justin] Watson. [Rashee] Rice has done it. We’ll put him in there — questionable. But all those guys can do it. We’ll see how it works out.”
Toub alluded to the idea that he could use one or more of those players on Sunday. But just because a returner begins the game will not mean he will be there for its entirety.
For what it’s worth, Watson has already submitted his name for the role.
“We’ll start off with somebody, and if he’s fine — or he’s not getting a lot of reps — I could stay with him again,” explained Toub. “We do have options — guys that have done it in games, so that’s the way we’ll go with it.”
There is a chance he uses a different player for kick returns than he does punt returns, but Toub said he would prefer that whoever he chooses has pro returning experience.
“There’s a difference between college and NFL,” said Toub, “catching punts and kickoffs, and the guys coming down the field — the type of ball, hang times, different stuff that you’re going to get. I’d rather have a guy that’s done it in a game, so he has that experience. We have guys that have done it and done it at a high level, so we’ll be OK. We just need [James] to get back healthy again.”
Last year, Moore had 14 punt returns — but at midseason, he had to be replaced due to some issues catching the football. Watson replaced him, finishing the year with five before Moore saw some punt-return redemption in the AFC championship game. Toney has yet to practice this week — and Rice is a rookie.
Whomever the choice is, he will have the utmost respect from Toub, who said he sees returner as the most challenging job next to the quarterback on the roster.
“You got quarterback, and you got punt returner, in my opinion,” said Toub. “It’s a hard job. We ask a lot of those guys, and it’s a tough position to play.”