Butker’s on-field improvement doesn’t necessarily mean he’s fully back to health yet.
The Kansas City Chiefs have dealt with their fair share of injuries this season, but one of their major absences followed kicker Harrison Butker’s Week 1 ankle sprain.
Initially viewed as something that wouldn’t hold the top-shelf placekicker out for too long, Butker ended up missing Weeks 2-5 with the injury. Special teams coordinator and assistant head coach Dave Toub reiterated before the club’s October 10 matchup against the Las Vegas Raiders that Kansas City wanted a “full, 100% Butker” back in the lineup, paving the way for him to pick up where he left off as one of the best players at his position. Unfortunately for the Chiefs, however, that simply hasn’t been the case.
Prior to the team’s Week 10 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Butker admitted that he still wasn’t 100% healthy. That has been reflected in his play, as he missed two of his 13 extra point attempts and three of his seven field goal attempts in his first four games back from injury. Of all kickers with at least 10 attempted extra points this year, Butker is tied for 25th in efficiency. For field goals, he’s in sole possession of 30th. That’s a far cry from the player Kansas City has grown to expect consistent greatness out of, although things did improve in last week’s win over the Los Angeles Chargers.
In addition to knocking in all three of his extra point attempts at SoFi Stadium, Butker went 3-for-3 on field goals as well. That marked the first time since Week 1 that he’d been able to accomplish 100% proficiency in both departments, which could be a springboard for more success in the homestretch of the 2022 campaign. Butker isn’t entirely out of the woods, though, and Toub made it a point on Tuesday to emphasize that he may not ever get back to full health before the season is over.
“Yeah, he had a real good warm up, and he looked good,” Toub said. “I don’t know if he’s ever going to be 100% this year, really – I told him to stop talking about it really. He was out there; he had a great warm up and he looked good, and he performed. It was good to see, and he was happy, and everybody was happy.”
The Chiefs’ special teams unit has struggled at times this year, and the group’s performance has fallen well short of the usual standards set out for a Toub-coached collective. Kansas City ranks 15th in Football Outsiders‘ Special Teams DVOA, and mistakes in both the kick and punt return games have been multiple. Kicking, while not a sore spot in Week 11, hasn’t been great either.
As the Chiefs gear up for another postseason run, they’ll hope that Butker can continue to make progress and get back on track. Even if he isn’t 100%, a mostly healthy Butker is usually better than almost every non-Justin Tucker kicker in the league. The question now is how close to that 100% mark he can get.