Last season, there were 29 punt and kickoff returns that went for a touchdown in the NFL.
None of those came from the Chiefs.
In the season before (2007), there were 42 punt and kickoff returns that went for a touchdown in the league.
None of those came from the Chiefs.
That’s 71 touchdowns in the last two seasons from the special teams return games. That’s an average of 2.2 TD returns per NFL team. But among the league’s 32 teams, there are three without return scores in the last two years: Tennessee, Carolina and the Chiefs.
Yes, there has become a very big hole in the Chiefs special teams over the last two seasons. They’ve now gone 46 games without a punt or kickoff return for a touchdown. The last time it happened was October 1, 2006, when Dante Hall (top right) returned a punt for a score against San Francisco.
In the NFL, only Carolina has gone longer waiting for a return score, at 49 games.
A touchdown at the end of a punt or kickoff return used to be a regular part of Chiefs football. With Tamarick Vanover (below right) (1995-1999) and then Hall (2001-06), the Chiefs had 19 punt and kickoff returns for TDs over those 12 seasons, with eight from Vanover and 11 by Hall. The only time the Chiefs were not a threat was the 2000 season, after Vanover ran into his problems off the field and before Hall was ready to become the man handling all the returns.
Since Hall left before the ‘07 season and went to St. Louis in a trade, the Chiefs have struggled in the return game. Struggle may be too kind. In 2007-08, they averaged 7 yards on punt returns and 20.4 yards on kick returns. The team had only one kick return that went for over 40 yards and one punt return that exceeded 30 yards in those two seasons.
Todd Haley wants to change that missing element in the Chiefs special teams attack for the 2009 season. He’s determined to find a returner.
“I’ve told everybody here that if you can be a better than average punt and kick returner you’ve got a very good chance of making this team,” Haley said during the team’s rookie mini-camp last weekend. ”I don’t know that we have one right now.”
If this is an area where Haley and GM Scott Pioli wanted to improve the talent level, they’ve not gotten the job done. Right now there’s not a soul on the Chiefs roster who has returned a punt or kickoff for a touchdown in the NFL over the last five years. There were some good returners available in free agency, guys like Arizona RB J.J. Arrington (25.6-yard KR average and a 93-yard TD in ‘08), Carolina WR Mark Jones (24-yard KR average and 11.4 PR average) and Tennessee CB Chris Carr (28.1 KR average and 10.1 PR average). But the Chiefs did not decide to sign any of those players, or anyone else with extensive NFL experience as a returner.
What they have is a collection of running backs, wide receivers and defensive backs that has produced one TD on a return in the last five years, whether college or pro. That would be sixth-round draft choice Quinten Lawrence’s 70-yard punt return TD last year at McNeese State.
There is only one player on the roster with a return TD in pro football: that’s 36-year old Bobby Engram, who had punt return TDs in 2002 and 2003.
On the veteran roster are second-year RBs Jamaal Charles and Dantrell Savage, UFA signee WR Terrance Copper, wide receivers Jeff Webb, Mark Bradley and C.J. Jones and cornerback Ricardo Colclough.
- Charles returned 15 kickoffs last year for 21.4 yards, with a 40-yard return as his longest.
- Savage returned 26 kickoffs in ‘08 for 24.3 yards with a long return of 59 yards. Savage also had eight punt returns for a 2.1-yard average.
- Over his career, Copper has returned 26 kickoffs for a 19.3-yard average.
- Webb has returned 17 kickoffs for a 21.9-yard average.
- Bradley returned four kickoffs in 2005 with Chicago, for a 17.5-yard average. He also had a kick return TD at Oklahoma in 2003.
- At Garden City JUCO, Jones had eight punt return TDs, but that was in 1999-2000.
- Colclough had five kick return TDs at Kilgore Junior College and then four punt and kick return scores at Tusculum in 2002-03.
And let’s not forget CB Brandon Carr, who at Grand Valley State returned an onside kick for a TD.
Lawrence returned only one punt in his college career at McNeese State; that came last year when he took it back for a score. As a freshman, he averaged 23.9 yards on kickoff returns in the 2005 season. What the draft choice brings to the competition is speed. He was clocked at the NCAA track regionals in 10.49 seconds in the 100 meters.
“That’s a great opportunity for somebody,” Haley said. “That’s definitely an area we went into the draft and the offseason knowing we needed to find somebody.”
Is Lawrence that guy?
“I’m not speculating whether he can or can’t right now,” Haley said. “He’s got a long way to go.”
So do the Chiefs when it comes to returning kicks and punts to the end zone.
JASON TAYLOR IS OFF THE MARKET AND BACK WITH THE FINS
After a year away, Jason Taylor has returned to the Miami Dolphins.
Taylor, the NFL’s active sacks leader, signed a one-year deal with the Fins for a $1.1 million base salary and $400,000 in what were termed easily earned incentives by his agent. He spent his first 11 years in the NFL playing for the Dolphins.
He returns to Miami after a year spent in Washington playing with the Redskins. The six-time Pro Bowler was released in March when he refused the Redskins request to take part in their off-season program. Taylor wanted to be closer to his South Florida home.
Taylor’s agent Gary Wichard indicated to the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel that his client had also drawn interest from New England and Tampa Bay. He made no mention of the Chiefs.
QB KNOWS NOWITZKI’S HEADACHE; SO DOES DICK VERMEIL
Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki was not the first pro athlete to have a relationship with a woman wanted in two states for outstanding warrants.
Turns out that Cristal Taylor as she is now known once had a relationship with former St. Louis Rams QB Tony Banks. At least that’s what he told the Dallas Morning News.
“This is unbelievable,” Banks said. “This is wild. I can’t believe it’s the same chick.”
Taylor was taken Wednesday to Jefferson County, Texas. She’s been considered a fugitive since 2001. On May 6, Dallas police officers went to Nowitzki’s house to arrest Taylor after confirming the existence of warrants for her arrest in Texas and Missouri.
Taylor used numerous aliases and Banks told The News he believes Taylor went by the name of Theresa when they met in 1997, his second season with the Rams.
“I just remember the team security guy got involved,” Banks said. “She ended up having a bunch of aliases, she was living with some police officer or something.
“She called me and wanted to see me; I said, no. She sent me her picture in the mail and she was just gorgeous. Me being a kid, thinking I was the best thing since sliced bread, I gave her a call and ended up dating her.”
Banks said he regretted the decision.
“I remember she camped out in front of my crib one time when I had another female friend in town,” Banks said. He said she started making harassing phone calls to him, his agent and Rams coach Dick Vermeil. “It wasn’t a good way for me and Dickie V. to start off,” Banks told The News. “Dick thought about drafting Jake Plummer that first year because of this stuff.”
BOBBY SIPPIO IS BACK ON THE FOOTBALL FIELD
WR Bobby Sippio’s many fans in Kansas City will be happy to know that he’s back in football. Sippio signed with the Chicago Slaughter of the Continental Indoor Football league.
“I’m very happy to be returning to Chicago,” Sippio said in a CIFL release. “Once again, I get to play in front of the great Chicago fans. I hope to help the Slaughter stay on top and win a Championship.”
The Slaughter is 9-0 and the lone undefeated team in the league. They will play Saturday evening against the Wisconsin Wolfpack at the Sears Centre.
Should more information on Sippio and the Slaughter be needed, visit www.ChicagoSlaughter.com.
SIGNINGS & MOVEMENT AROUND THE LEAGUE
DOLPHINS – signed DE Jason Taylor (Redskins).
RAIDERS – signed TE J.P. Foschi (he was with the Chiefs last year).
RAVENS – OT Willie Anderson retired; agreed to terms with WR Kelley Washington.