From toiling on the Carolina Panthers’ practice squad to preparing to make his NFL debut as the Chiefs’ starting placekicker on Monday night, it’s been a whirlwind few days for Harrison Butker.
A groin injury to Cairo Santos on Sunday began the Chiefs’ search for a replacement, and they dialed up Butker, who spent the previous four years kicking for Georgia Tech.
“It will be a big stage,” Butker said. “But you have to treat it like any other game … what a way to start my career.”
Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Butker had been on the team’s radar. The Panthers selected him in the seventh round in April, making Butker the first drafted kicker in team history.
He challenged veteran Graham Gano, who missed eight field goals last season, and Butker had a solid preseason. He converted both of his field goals and all four extra points. But the Panthers decided to go with Gano and eventually assigned Butker to their practice squad.
He got the call from the Chiefs on Monday.
Butker finished as Georgia Tech’s career scoring leader and saved his best year for last, when he made 15 of 17 field-goal attempts, including all four in a bowl game. He also made all 46 of his extra-point attempts.
Oh, and there’s his Twitter handle, @buttkicker87.
“It came from a trainer at Georgia Tech my freshman year,” Butker said. “People say a lot of stuff about my last name … I kind of made it a funny thing to be ‘Butt Kicker.’ I just went with it.”
As for Santos, he made all 15 kicks this season — 12 extra points and three field goals — before suffering the injury in the Chiefs’ 24-10 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers.
According to trainer Rick Burkholder, Santos pulled his right groin on his first boot during warm ups and aggravated it during the game. A roughing the kicker penalty didn’t have anything to do with the injury, nor was it related to a groin injury Santos suffered in the preseason, Burkholder said.
The injury continues a trend of the Chiefs losing a player to injury per game. In the opening victory over New England, safety Eric Berry went down with a ruptured Achilles. In the victory over Philadelphia, center Mitch Morse was lost for several weeks with a foot injury.
Now it’s Santos, who is expected to miss at least several weeks.
“Cairo’s been there, done that,” Reid said. “But we have trust in Harrison, too, or we wouldn’t have brought him in here.”
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Watch Kansas City Star beat writers Terez Paylor and Blair Kerkhoff talk with columnist Vahe Gregorian about the unbeaten KC Chiefs and their looming Monday Night Football showdown against Washington at Arrowhead Stadium.David Eulitt firstname.lastname@example.org