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Are long field goals next frontier for the Chiefs’ Harrison Butker? – Kansas City Chiefs Blog

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It took many tries and a strong wind at his back, but Harrison Butker made a 77-yard field goal this spring while working out at a Kansas City-area park.

It was the longest successful kick of Butker’s career, practice or otherwise, surpassing the 72-yarder he made in warm-ups before the Kansas City Chiefs‘ game last November in the altitude of Mexico City.

Consistency, not range, has already made Butker one of the most accomplished kickers in team history. Butker’s field goal percentage of 89.7 since joining the Chiefs in 2017 is the franchise’s highest ever.

Butker has only two of the Chiefs’ 15 longest field goals, however, both coming last season. He made a 56-yarder last December against the Bears in Chicago and a 54-yarder on a windy November day at home against the Minnesota Vikings.

But his 77-yard try, even under favorable conditions, makes it natural to wonder whether the next frontier for Butker is longer kicks, maybe even threatening the NFL record for longest field goal of 64 yards, set by Denver’s Matt Prater in 2013.

“In terms of the NFL record, there are a ton of kickers that have the leg to make a field goal … in a game situation,” Butker said. “It’s just, does the coach want to put the kicker out there, because if he misses, now the other team gets the ball with great field position? So you kind of have to get set up with end-of-half, end-of-game situations. I don’t think we’ve had that situation where it would have been that long of a field goal. But I think definitely when it’s warm out, I’d be prepared to make that kick.

“I feel super comfortable kicking from distance. Obviously, we’re not going to be kicking field goals from [77 yards] most likely in a game, but it’s going to help me a lot when it’s a 55-yarder, wind’s in your face in January and February. That’s what I’m training for, to be able to make those kicks.”

Butker has been a success since joining the Chiefs in the middle of the 2017 season, when he was signed off the practice squad of the Carolina Panthers. He made a game-winning 43-yard field goal with four seconds remaining on a Monday night against Washington in his NFL debut. He made 23 straight field goals at one point that season.

His longest field goal until late last season was a 54-yarder in 2018 against the Seattle Seahawks. He matched that last season against the Vikings on a day that then-Chiefs punter Dustin Colquitt, who served as Butker’s holder, called one of the trickiest of his career because of the wind.

“For kicking, in general, it’s hard to do that on days like [that],” Colquitt said of Butker, who also made a 44-yarder on the game’s final play to give the Chiefs a three-point victory. “He stuck with it, kept his head down, hit two big kicks for us.”

His success on kicks like that have the Chiefs warming to the idea of allowing Butker to attempt longer kicks, like the one he made at Soldier Field.

“It was a great kick,” special teams coordinator Dave Toub said of Butker’s 56-yard field goal in Chicago. “To do that in Soldier Field — I mean, the weather wasn’t brutal, but it wasn’t perfect, either. It was really impressive, what he did. That’s going to help him as far as confidence goes and going forward into the playoffs, that being the longest one that he has made in a game. He’s done a lot longer in practice. But in a game situation, that was his best. That was impressive.”

Butker has shown leg strength during in-game kickoffs. He hit an 80-yard kickoff last year in the playoffs against the Texans, a kick that was tied for longest in the NFL in 2019. Butker said he was better prepared to make longer kicks than he was when he joined the Chiefs.

“One thing I struggled with in Carolina and then in the 2017 season is I was getting under the sweet spot a lot, so the ball was spinning a ton,” he said. “It was going straight, which was great. I made a lot of kicks in 2017. [But] I had a 49-yarder against the Texans in 2017 where the ball barely went over the crossbar. So I had enough leg to make the kicks, but I’m not quite hitting the sweet spot. In 2018, I made some adjustments. I went from a jab two-step kicker to just a two-step kicker. … It wasn’t until probably 2019 that I felt super comfortable with it.

“I think 2019 was my best year. In 2017, I had a ton of kicks from 30 to 40 yards. In 2019, I had one missed kick under 40 and then I had like 17 kicks between 40 and 50 and was perfect on all of those, to my memory. Then I had a couple of misses from 50 and beyond, but I was really happy with how I performed in 2019. I obviously need to focus on the extra points.”

Just don’t look for any 77-yard field goal tries. He’ll leave those for offseason practice and windy days.

“In the offseason, that’s kind of when you’re messing around a little bit,” Butker said. “Typically, in a normal practice, I would never go back to that distance. I think when you start getting 77 yards, you’re doing some different things with your technique to get the ball as far as you can.

“I just kept pushing the ball back, and no, I wasn’t very accurate from back there, but I made one and it kind of went viral on social media. That was pretty fun to do.”



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NFLPA board votes to recommend canceling all preseason games this year

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Earlier this week, the NFL decided to shorten its preseason from four weeks to two to account for the coronavirus pandemic and the ways in which it’s affecting the league’s ability to start the season. But the NFL’s players don’t think that move went far enough.

An NFL Players Association source said Friday that the union’s board of player representatives had voted to recommend scrapping all 2020 preseason games. The matter came to a vote during Thursday evening’s conference call with NFLPA player reps, and the source said the vote was unanimous.

It’s unclear whether the NFL will consider the players’ recommendation. The league has yet to formally announce the reduction of the preseason from four games to two, though a source told ESPN’s Kevin Seifert on Wednesday that the decision had been made.

The league does not believe it needs the union’s approval to set its preseason schedule, though the players would argue that the changes in work rules brought on by the pandemic allow them the right to be involved in the decision.

Training camps for most NFL teams are set to begin July 28, only weeks away, and the league and union are still finalizing health and safety protocols to protect players and team personnel from the virus. Many of those protocols were discussed on the Thursday night call with the player reps and union medical director Thom Mayer. They range from newly designed protective face masks to reduced sizes of training camp rosters to possible fines for players who spread the virus after circulating in public outside of the team facility.

Sources familiar with the content of Thursday’s call said players had many unanswered questions about how they can safely return to practice and play. The NFL has so far maintained that it plans to start camp and the regular season on time.

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Cleveland Browns TE David Njoku asks for trade, agent says

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Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku requested a trade from the Browns on Friday, his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

The Browns told the 23-year-old Njoku they would like to keep him, but Rosenhaus told the team he’s intent on a trade, and they want it before training camp.‬

“It is in David’s best interest to find a new team at this time,”‬ Rosenhaus told Schefter.

The Browns announced in April that they would pick up Njoku’s fifth-year option, worth $6.4 million.

They had already signed Pro Bowl tight end Austin Hooper to a four-year, $44 million deal with $23 million guaranteed in March. And then they drafted tight end Harrison Bryant in the fourth round of the 2020 draft. But new coach Kevin Stefanski values tight ends and said after the draft he could see all three playing.

Njoku, a 2017 first-round pick out of Miami, broke his wrist and suffered a concussion in Week 2 of the 2019 season. He played only two more games after that and finished the season with five receptions for 41 yards and one touchdown.

In 2018, he had 56 receptions for 639 yards and four touchdowns.

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Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers president Gay Culverhouse, advocate for player safety, dies

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TAMPA, Fla. – Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers team president and senior executive Gay Culverhouse, who devoted her life to helping former NFL players dealing with health issues including chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), has died at the age of 73, a family spokesperson told the New York Times.

Culverhouse, the daughter of late Buccaneers owner Hugh Culverhouse, died Wednesday at her home in Fernandina Beach, Florida. Culverhouse suffered from complications from myelofibrosis, a form of chronic leukemia inhibiting the production of red blood cells. She had battled the condition, which left her severely anemic, since 2003.

She was originally given just five years to live and survived 17 years with the illness.

“We are saddened to hear of the passing of Gay Culverhouse earlier this week,” Buccaneers owner and co-chairman Bryan Glazer said in a statement. “During her family’s ownership of the Buccaneers, Gay was a leading figure in and around the Tampa Bay community who was defined by her compassion for helping others. Her tireless work as an advocate for retired NFL players is also an important part of her personal legacy. We send our heartfelt condolences to her children, Leigh and Chris, and the entire Culverhouse family.”

Culverhouse joined the Buccaneers in 1986, years after her father was awarded the expansion Buccaneers in 1974. Before joining the Buccaneers, she worked as an instructor at the University of South Florida College of Medicine from 1982-1986, specializing in child psychiatry after earning her doctorate from Columbia University.

She remained with the organization until 1994, resurfacing 15 years later to serve as an advocate for retired players, testifying in a House Judiciary hearing on head injuries among NFL players in 2009.

“One of the things you, as a committee, need to understand very clearly is the fact that the team doctor is hired by the coach and paid by the front office,” Culverhouse said. “This team doctor is not a medical advocate for the players. This team doctor’s role is to get that player back on the field, even if that means injecting the player on the field.”

“My men have headaches that never stop. They cannot remember where they are going or what they want to say without writing it down. Some are on government welfare. Some are addicted to pain medication. Some are dead.”

She called for mandatory benching of players suffering from concussions and for independent neurologists not affiliated with teams to be on the field for every game evaluating players. Thanks to her efforts, the league implemented this policy in 2013, which includes fines and even forfeiture of draft picks should teams fail to follow concussion guidelines.

It was the death of former Buccaneers lineman Tom McHale of an accidental drug overdose in 2008 that prompted Culverhouse to take up the cause of helping former players. McHale was just 45, but his brain, researchers found, was marked by signs of the neurological disease CTE.

“I became very concerned and started looking more thoroughly into concussions,” she said. “And I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something. I can’t let this fester.’ “

She formed the nonprofit Gay Culverhouse Players’ Outreach Program, paying for medical exams for dozens of retired players while assisting them with the necessary paperwork to receive medical benefits.

When asked why she chose to adopt the cause of retired NFL players, Culverhouse said in 2010, “Because it needs to be done. If not me, then who?”

Culverhouse didn’t shy away from her father’s unpopular and often controversial decisions, which included a low-ball salary offer to then-Buccaneers quarterback Doug Williams, who would later become Super Bowl MVP as a member of the Washington Redskins.

“My father has to answer on his own merit,” Culverhouse said to ESPN. “No one can make up for someone else’s mistakes.”

Nor did she shy away from criticism of the league, its owners, its doctors and its culture when player came safety second, serving as an important moral compass at a time when it was desperately needed.

“This game has to change. ‘Game’ is a misnomer. This business has to change. My grandson means too much to me to sit on the sidelines and not mandate change,” Culverhouse said of her grandson, who was at the time, 8. “I have seen his future in the bodies and eyes of my former players. I know what is happening in the locker room. Please change football before my grandson is damaged.”

“One of my former players referred to me as a ‘rebel with a cause.’ By breaking ranks with the National Football League, I have become that rebel. My cause is the health and well-being of all football players whether they are 8-year-olds or 22-year-olds. Safety must come first. Business must come second.”

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