May 21, 2020 10:37 AM

Chiefs holding unique virtual competition for punting job

Posted May 21, 2020 10:37 AM

LEAWOOD, Kan. (AP) — It’s a good thing an NFL kicking operation requires no more than three players.

There’s the long snapper, tasked with delivering the ball. The kicker, who is expected to send it through the uprights. And the punter, who for many teams doubles as the holder on field goal and extra-point attempts.

The reason this is important, at least for the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, is that for the first time in 15 years they are trying to decide on a new punter. Dustin Colquitt held down the job with Pro Bowl efficiency for as long as some of the current Chiefs have been playing football. But his increasing age and the franchise’s dwindling coffers forced the club to make the difficult business decision to let him go this offseason.

With teams barred from holding in-person workouts because of COVID-19, the Chiefs have been unable to bring in an endless number of potential replacements. Instead, they signed Tyler Newsome and undrafted rookie Tommy Townsend, and those two have been working out privately with kicker Harrison Butker and long snapper James Winchester.

Well below the gathering limits of 10 people that have been in place in Kansas and Missouri.

“We’re kind of fortunate,” Chiefs special teams coach Dave Toub said, “because those guys can get together and kick and work on the operation. They can do that on our own. We can work on our skill set, whereas to play football you need 22 guys out there. You can’t sit down face to face, but they video everything they do and send it to me and we talk.”

Nobody knows when teams will be allowed back at their facilities for good. Just this week, players rehabbing from injuries and certain staff were finally allowed back, but no coaches or healthy players. So that means what would typically be low-stress, good-natured workouts on a high school practice field for Newsome and Townsend have taken on extra importance.

What they show off on video could determine who has the leg up — pun intended — when training camp finally begins.

“There is nobody out in front right now. I like them both,” Toub said. “They’ve both got really strong legs, really powerful legs. They consistently hit over 5.0 (seconds) hang times, which is impressive. Tommy is a little more clean in his technique as far as consistency, whereas Tyler is a little more erratic. But the results are the same. They both bomb the ball.”

That’s a good thing for the Chiefs as they attempt to replace a franchise icon.

Colquitt appeared in a record 238 games for Kansas City, easily besting the previous mark by Nick Lowery. He also set franchise records for punts, punt yardage and career-long kick with an 81-yard boot. When he was released, he was among the top 10 active players in appearances and had the eighth-most punt yardage in NFL history.

Even more impressive, he was the only man among the top 20 in total punts to have played with just one team.

“They’ve been with Dustin for a really long time. He’s a guy that has done everything the right way,” Townsend said. “The biggest thing for me is just trying to make a name for myself and become my own person.”

Townsend’s familiarity with Colquitt goes back to college; he began his career at Tennessee, where Colquitt holds a number of records, before transferring to Florida. As a Gator, he followed in the footsteps of his brother, Johnny, who was drafted by the Raiders a couple of years ago and has spent time in camp with the Giants.

Toub said the younger Townsend was the Chiefs’ highest-rated punter in this year’s draft class, even though two others — Texas A&M’s Braden Mann and Syracuse’s Sterling Hofrichter — where chosen in the later rounds.

Newsome punted at Notre Dame before spending last offseason with the Chargers.

“We just finished the virtual rookie minicamp and we went over schemes and stuff like that, so I got a little taste for what we’re doing in Kansas City,” Townsend said, “and I’ve gotten a chance to watch all the film from the past few seasons. That’s the stuff I’ve been working for, get the feeling for the schemes we are using here in Kansas City.”

That way, he’ll be ready when the competition for the starting job finally returns to the Chiefs’ own practice facility.

“Harrison and James have taken the leadership role. They know how important that part of it is,” Toub said. “They’ve been up here on their own, doing their own thing, and videoing it. And we feel good about both guys we have, Tommy and Tyler.”

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May 21, 2020 10:37 AM
NCAA Division II cuts athletic schedules for 2020-2021 seasons

MIAA Press Release

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - The NCAA Division II President’s Council announced Tuesday that it has adjusted Division II's maximum number of permissible contests (in all sports) for the 2020-21 academic year. This action by the NCAA is a response to help Division II institutions manage the economic fallout from the COVID-19 Global Health Pandemic. The Council has also approved changes to the division's minimum number of contests (in all sports) that must be completed for postseason selection for the 2020-21 academic year.

With these changes set for Division II, the MIAA’s scheduling subcommittee will review MIAA schedules for the 2020-21 academic year, and make modifications where necessary to comply with the new NCAA requirements. The scheduling subcommittee is comprised of an administrator from each MIAA member institution. The scheduling subcommittee will make its recommendations in the next few weeks, and the Association is hopeful that MIAA schedule adjustments will be approved by the MIAA CEO Council when that group meets by videoconference on June 15.

"I applaud the NCAA for this quick action to help schools address the disruption and budget shortfalls occurring in higher education", stated MIAA Commissioner Mike Racy. "As state tax revenues continue to decline, and state expenses continue to increase, and higher education appropriations in each state continue to shrink, these NCAA reductions in every Division II sport will assist MIAA athletics departments as they make adjustments to their 2020-21 budgets."

As noted by the NCAA, the emergency one-year recommendations from the President’s Council are focused on institutional cost savings, reducing athletics operating costs as a result of COVID-19 compliance, and preserving fair and equitable standards for Division II championships' selection and competition.

The Presidents Council said: "NCAA Division II conferences and institutions have acknowledged through survey feedback on contests reductions that COVID-19 has presented us with financial challenges that we are proactively addressing together. In that spirit, and as a result of the governance structure’s decision to reduce contest maximums, thus affecting current schedules, we strongly encourage all member institutions and conferences to work cooperatively and collegially when adjusting schedules. Please keep in mind the purpose behind these actions is to assist all institutions with short-term financial concerns so that we may emerge stronger as a membership and division."

The one-year scheduling changes considered by the President's Council were recommended by the NCAA Management Council after the Council reviewed feedback from several leadership groups including Division II governance committees, the National Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), and two surveys of the Division II membership.

“As a student-athlete, it is not easy to accept that I will be playing a shorter season. However, I know that the NCAA and MIAA put student-athletes first and I understand that cutting the maximums will help more institutions to stay open and athletic programs to compete equitably,” stated Mackenzie O’Neill, Missouri Western women’s soccer student-athlete and the MIAA’s NCAA Division II National SAAC Representative. “These are unprecedented and challenging times, and this season is going to look different. I trust the MIAA will adjust to this adversity, as we have from the beginning, and continue to uphold a high level of competition throughout the conference.“