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Chiefs’ Dave Toub preparing special teams for ‘return season’ and ‘cover season’

Kansas City’s special teams coach says that in colder weather, we can expect more kick return opportunities.

Cincinnati Bengals v Kansas City Chiefs Photo by Ryan Kang/Getty Images

Speaking to reporters before Wednesday’s practice, Kansas City Chiefs special teams coordinator (and assistant head coach) Dave Toub said that as his kickers prepared for Saturday’s Wild Card playoff game against the Miami Dolphins, they would spend some of their practice time across the parking lot from the team’s practice facility at the Truman Sports Complex — in other words, on GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium.

“We’re gonna go up there today,” said Toub. “We’ll practice here. Then we’ll take the kickers up and get a feel for what the field feels like — and wind and stuff like that — for right now.

“But today is like nothing compared to what we’re going to get. We’re going to go outside today. It’s going to be 30 [degrees] or something. But eight [degrees] is different.”

Toub was referring to the current weather forecast, which calls for cloudy skies and a high of just 9° on Saturday afternoon, with temperatures falling after sundown. Kickoff is set for 7:15 p.m. Arrowhead Time. By sunrise Sunday morning, it could be 6° below zero. Winds are expected to be significant, coming from the northwest at 10-15 miles per hour.

Agreeing with a reporter’s suggestion, Toub said there was “no question” that kicks wouldn’t travel as far in cold weather.

“If you’ve got a guy who maximally hits the ball — kickoff wise — five [yards] deep, that ball is coming down at the goal line. For sure,” noted Toub. “So you’re talking about getting returns — and that goes both ways. It’s hard [enough] to hit touchbacks. When you’re hitting into the wind — [or] for sure in the cold weather — that’s another five yards off.”

More kickoff and punt returns — by either the Chiefs or their postseason opponents — will put many Chiefs fans outside of their comfort zone with Toub’s unit. They believe he has been too aggressive in 2023. But with the playoffs looming, the coach talks like a man who is adopting a more conservative approach.

“The main thing that we’ve got to do is be sound: keep making our field goals,” he said. “Don’t do crazy things. We need to be solid, you know? With that — [in] combination with our defense — we’ll be in every game.”

Toub — and, it would seem, the team’s players and coaches — are wrapping their heads around a different idea about how Kansas City can be successful.

“One thing that we have learned this year is that a punt is OK,” remarked Toub. “I think even Pat said it: it’s OK to punt — and play with our defense and special teams.”

Still, it’s probably a mistake to think that Toub won’t be prepared to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves — such as fake punts — in the postseason.

“It depends on the game,” he explained. “It’s game-to-game. It’s how your offense is moving the ball — and, you know, if you need a spark. All of those things.

“And you try to be unpredictable, too. You can’t say, ‘Well, this is a perfect time for a fake’ — [because at that time] they usually are ready for the fake.”

But even without any special teams razzle-dazzle, we should probably expect more opportunities for kickoff and punt returns during January’s cold-weather playoff matchups — particularly on Saturday night.

“There’s more chance of getting the ball in your hands,” said Toub. “We call it, ‘return season.’ And ‘cover season.’”

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