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Chiefs Work on New Kickoff Rules as OTAs Continue at the Team Facility

The Chiefs experimented with the new kickoff rules during Thursday’s practice

The Kansas City Chiefs took part in another round of "Organized Team Activities," or OTAs, this week as the back-to-back defending Super Bowl champions continued their preparation for another title-defense campaign.

This portion of the offseason training program is significant in that OTA practices permit for 11-on-11 and 7-on-7 drills in which the offense competes against the defense. Previously, only individual and positional drills were allowed at the team facility.

It's important to note that these aren't padded practices and no "live contact" is allowed, but for what it's worth, these past two weeks have represented the closest thing to "real football" for Kansas City since Super Bowl LVIII concluded.

These practices also provide the foundation for what the Chiefs will build upon during training camp in a few months, and with a new set of rules governing kickoffs in 2024, the new-look process has been a major focus over the last two weeks.

"Every day, we're working either on kickoff or kickoff return," said Assistant Head Coach and Special Teams Coordinator Dave Toub. "Today, we worked on kickoff, and what we're trying to do there – without giving everything away – is we're trying to get the ball on the ground, away from the returners, as quickly as possible. [When the ball hits the ground], that's when the [coverage] team can go."

Toub went on to explain a key difference between the NFL's rule and that of the XFL, from which much of this concept was adopted. In the XFL, the coverage team can't move until the ball is fielded. The NFL's new rule, however, allows the coverage team to move once the ball hits the ground, regardless of whether a player touches it.

"That's a major difference," Toub added.

In terms of strategy, Toub pointed out the key points of emphasis with the new rule on the books.

"Hang time doesn't matter at all now," Toub said. "Now, it's about accuracy, seeing where the returners are lined up and trying to kick away from them in the corners, but you can't take too much of a risk, because if you hit it out of bounds, now you're giving them the ball at the 40-yard line. There's a fine line."

Toub also mentioned that running back (and former rugby star) Louis Rees-Zammit and safety Justin Reid, in addition to kicker Harrison Butker, have been working as the kicker during kickoff drills. The idea is that if Rees-Zammit or Reid can handle the kickoff role in certain situations, their presence adds another tackler in coverage.

"Justin can cover. He can kick, and he can also go down there and make tackles. He's an extra guy that they're probably not accounting for and that they have to worry about. You have to get him blocked," Toub said. "Louis has done above and beyond what I expected. He can kick field goals and he can be a kickoff guy for us – he's every bit as good as Justin is in terms of moving the football on kickoffs."

Touchbacks – which now spot the ball at the 30 instead of the 25 – will still be utilized, too, just not as often.

"Last year, there were 1,970 touchbacks throughout the league. Now, we expect there to be 1,600 more 'football plays.' That's a lot of football," Toub said. "We can still kick a touchback if we need it…If you're trying to get out of a game and you don't want to give up the possibility of a big return, you can just bang it out the back of the end zone…You're just giving up the ball at the 30 instead of the 25, and those five yards make a big difference."

Toub later indicated that this is all still a work in progress, but that process is certainly underway as the Chiefs aim to master the league's most significant rule change in quite a while.

"Every time we practice, we learn something new," Toub said. "The team that figures this out is really going to excel early, and we want to be that team."

With all of that in mind, here's a quick rundown on the new kickoff rules in 2024:

What's the "Landing Zone?"

The "landing zone" is the area between the receiving team's goal line and its 20-yard line. Here's how kickoffs will work in relation to the landing zone:

  • Kick falls in the landing zone: Ball must be returned. No fair catch is allowed.
  • Kick goes out the back of the end zone: Ball is spotted at the 30-yard line.
  • Kick hits the landing zone and bounces into the end zone: Ball must be returned or downed by the receiving team. If downed, the ball is spotted at the 20-yard line.
  • Kick falls short of the landing zone: Ball is spotted at the 40-yard line.

Where Do The Players Line Up?

All kicking team players (other than the kicker) will line up with one foot on the receiving team's 40-yard line. Those 10 players cannot move until the ball hits the ground, a player in the landing zone or the end zone.

The receiving team will line up as follows:

At least nine players must line up in the "setup zone" – a 5-yard area from the 35-yard line to the 30-yard line. All players in the setup zone cannot move until the kick has hit the ground, a player in the landing zone or the end zone. A maximum of two returners may line up in the landing zone and can move at any time prior to, or during, the kick.

As for what took place during Thursday's practice, here are a few quick notes.

  • In addition to the new kickoff rules, the Chiefs also practiced a "run-on" field goal situation during Thursday's practice. If the Chiefs have to conduct a run-on field goal at some point during the 2024 season, remember that they practiced it on May 30.
  • Linebacker Nick Bolton swatted a pass at the line of scrimmage during 11-on-11 drills.
  • Rookie undrafted free agent cornerback Miles Battle tallied a pass-breakup on a shallow route during an 11-on-11 period. Battle came up from behind the intended target to break up the pass.
  • Wide receiver Justyn Ross made an impressive catch over the middle despite good coverage during a 7-on-7 period.
  • Wide receiver Nikko Remigio continued his strong offseason training program with another impressive day. Remigio, who signed with the Chiefs as an undrafted free agent last offseason, was in the midst of a solid training camp when a shoulder injury ended his campaign early. Now healthy, Remigio made several plays – including a tight-window, over-the-shoulder catch during 7-on-7 drills – throughout the practice.
  • Safety Trey Dean recorded an athletic interception near the sideline during 7-on-7 drills. He later added a pass-breakup in the red zone during 11-on-11. Dean flew in from behind on a shallow route to break up the play.
  • Rookie tight end Jared Wiley made a noteworthy catch over the middle on a low throw during 7-on-7.
  • Rookie wide receiver Phillip Brooks hauled in a touchdown grab in the back of the end zone during 7-on-7 drills.
  • Wide receiver Montrell Washington made a leaping touchdown grab during 11-on-11 drills on what turned out to be the last play of the practice. Washington has performed well so far this offseason.
  • Safety Jaden Hicks tallied a pass-breakup on a short throw in the red zone during 11-on-11 drills.

Next up, the Chiefs will take the field for another round of OTAs next week before kicking off mandatory minicamp the following week.