By Dave Skretta
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs are hopeful that Harrison Butker, their big-legged kicker whom they so sorely missed last week in Indianapolis, will be able to play when they face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.
Wherever the game is played.
The Chiefs used journeyman Matt Ammendola the past two weeks in place of Butker, who sprained his plant ankle when he slipped on the shoddy turf in Arizona in Week 1.
But after a solid job in a win over the Chargers, Ammendola missed an early extra point in Indianapolis and then a chip-shot field goal that would have extended the Kansas City lead to seven.
Instead, the Colts seized the momentum and marched downfield for the go-ahead touchdown in the closing seconds, and the margin in the 20-17 loss for Kansas City wound up being that missed field goal with 8:41 left to play.
“Harrison will go ahead and do a little bit today,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said Wednesday, “and we’ll just play it by ear.”
The Chiefs are still hedging their bets, though. They waived Ammendola, who had won a five-way kicking competition to be the fill-in guy, and signed former Jaguars kicker Matthew Wright to the practice squad.
He would be promoted to the active roster if Butker remains unavailable.
Wright appeared in three games for Pittsburgh two years ago and 14 games for Jacksonville, where he connected on 21 of 24 field goals and 13 of 15 extra points. The former Central Florida standout’s career long is 56 yards.
“I don’t know (about Wright) other than his workout out here. I haven’t been in a game with him,” Reid said. “He had a good workout yesterday and you would hope that transfers in. He does have some experience.”
Just not the same level as Butker, who has emerged alongside Baltimore’s Justin Tucker as one of the NFL’s best kickers.
He has converted 94% of his extra points and 90% of his field-goal tries during five-plus seasons, including a 54-yarder made while nursing a sore ankle against the Cardinals.
And Butker might have the strongest leg in the league, with 21 makes over 50 yards and a career-best of 58 yards, which gives Kansas City a chance to score any time it crosses midfield.
One thing that could factor into the decision to play him: the location of the game.
As of Wednesday, the Chiefs were still due to play Sunday night on the natural grass surface at Tampa Bay, which was getting dumped on courtesy of Hurricane Ian and could be somewhat compromised.
If the NFL decides to move the game, it would be played on the artificial surface inside U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnesota.
“We’re not sure where we’re going to play,” Reid said, “but wherever we need to go, we’ll go. We’ll get ourselves ready for that. When the league announces it, we’ll move forward in that direction. But right now we know nothing.
“And listen, my heart goes out to the people of Tampa. I haven’t quite followed it and know how much it’s hit or will hit, but from what I’ve heard it could be a big one. My heart goes out to them.”
NOTES: The Chiefs activated CB Nazeeh Johnson from the practice squad Wednesday. They also signed LB Elijah Lee, who was waived the previous day, to replace him on the practice squad. … The Chiefs signed DT Cortez Broughton to the practice squad this week. The seventh-round pick of the Chargers in 2019 spent last season on the Kansas City practice squad. He’d been waived with an injury designation in July and placed on the reserve/PUP list after clearing waivers. … DE Mike Danna (calf), RB Ronald Jones II (illness) and WR Mecole Hardman (bruised foot) did not practice Wednesday, though Reid sounded optimistic that Hardman will play on Sunday. “I think the heel affected him a bit this past week,” Reid said.