Chiefs’ Harrison Butker defends Tommy Townsend amid keeper controversy

In Sunday’s 30-24 overtime win over the Houston Texans, Kansas City Chiefs placekicker Harrison Butker missed an extra point and a last-minute 51-yard field goal attempt. In a season cut short by injury, Butker has now missed five field goals and three extra point attempts in ten games.

Former Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt — first on Twitter and then on local sports radio — has blamed his replacement for Butker’s struggles. Colquitt — who spent 15 seasons as Kansas City’s punter and holder — insists the holds of third-year punter Tommy Townsend are the reason for the placekicker’s inconsistency.

In the locker room before Tuesday’s practice session, Butker tried to sort out his holder’s problem. He credited Townsend — as well as Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, special teams coordinator Dave Toub and long snapper James Winchester — for working together amid so-so results.

“Dustin — he’s a huge Chiefs fan,” he said of his former teammate. “Obviously he’s given a lot to the whole community here – and I respect him a lot. I’m just trying to be the best kicker I can be. All the guys here – James, Tommy, Coach Toub, Coach Reid – they all push us to do our best. And we listen to all these guys and try to improve every day.”

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Butker reiterated that he was pleased with his current owner’s work.

“James and Tommy are doing a great job,” he explained, “and I have to finish it and get the ball through the posts. I was pleased with all the effort and work these guys put into it. At the end of the day? If the ball is on the ground, it has to go through.”

In his comments, Reid simply dismissed his former player’s notion that an issue with holds is not being addressed.

“We’re looking at everything,” he said of the situation. “I won’t go into it, but nothing gets past us. We have to get through this. They all take responsibility between the three. We will sort it out.”

Criticism from a former player is irrelevant to the head coach.

“[Colquitt has] a big personality,” Reid noted. “He loves to speak his mind. I’m not worried about any of that. We do our thing. We study all that stuff. Everyone has an opinion. I’m not worried at all.”

Colquitt’s thesis, in short, is that Townsend’s grips consistently leave football’s laces in the wrong position. Butker has completely downplayed the issue.

“One thing I’ve been working on for the past few years,” he said, “is just looking right under the ball so I don’t notice the laces spinning — if there are any laces spinning — because I do can not control . And I like to think that no matter where the laces are, I should still be able to hit a straight ball.

“That’s one thing Tommy and I have been working on our entire time together: just a few drills where Tommy puts the balls down and he spins. So I need to get better at just kicking the ball, basically starting on the ground under the ball so I don’t even notice a spinning ball.

“I think kickers often put too much stock in balls that have the laces untied – or the lean or whatever it is. I just take the approach, ‘I can do better. I can fix that.’ I should be able to hit any ball through the posts.”

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However, the downside to dismissing Colquitt’s claims is that if the handles aren’t the problem, then what is the problem? Citing ample clearance, Butker did not blame the ongoing pain from his Week 1 injury.

“I have a lot of distance to field goals,” he claimed. “I just have to keep working to make sure they pull through.”

Both Butker and Reid warned of making sweeping changes in December to fix the problem.

“You have to trust the process,” Butker explained. “You can’t just throw everything out the window and try to do something new.

“A big reason why a ball doesn’t go through – or why it goes right down the middle – is just a small change; a little little change. That’s the hard part about pedaling. You have to figure out what that little change is – and make it and get through it.”

Reid expects the player to overcome their recent struggles.

“You shake a little bit,” he remarked, “and this ball looks small. Suddenly you’re working through that and it’s looking big again. And you’re starting to get better at it. Here we are. We work through it. [I] still have a lot of faith in the process. We just have to get through it.”

Butker knows how to deal with accuracy issues because he’s done it before. He cited a string of missed extra points as evidence the situation can improve.

“I know I was missing all those extra points in 2020,” he recalled. “One of the things that helped me was not to overanalyze everything, because you can get yourself to where you’re just trying to change way too much – and hurting yourself.

“You have to go back to the drawing board – always – when something is wrong. And you better come back. That’s what I do. I work my butt off.”

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