Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman has been on the team’s reserve/COVID-19 list since last Wednesday. So far, there is no sign that Hardman will be off the list — and therefore eligible to play — before the team faces the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday night.
Ever since he was drafted last season, Hardman has been the Chiefs’ main kick returner — although this season, the team has also used some other players as returners. So with Hardman out, who will be lining up to receive kicks against the Raiders?
“Tyreek Hill — obviously — is a pretty good option for us,” Chiefs special-teams coordinator Dave Toub told reporters on Thursday. “We would use that option if we needed it. Like I’ve said before, we have other guys. Demarcus Robinson could do it. Rashad Fenton can play it. We have a number of guys that could do it. Byron Pringle could play.”
In fact, Pringle has returned four kickoffs in 2020 — one of them a 102-yard touchdown against the Denver Broncos in Week 7. Robinson has also had a kickoff return this year — along with safety Armani Watts — but this far, Fenton has not had either a kickoff or punt return.
And that’s the way Toub wants it. Based on past experience, it’s clear that he likes to put other special-teams units on the defensive by sending out a returner they’re not necessarily prepared to see.
“You’d never know which way we’d go there,” said Toub. “But obviously, Hill would be the number-one option.”
But whether that’s actually true remains to be seen. Toub has often hinted that in certain circumstances, he would send Hill out for a punt-return play. But recently, he’s done it only twice — once last season and once (so far) this season. Hill hasn’t had a kickoff return since his rookie season in 2016.
So for the moment, Toub is keeping his cards face down.
In any case, offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy didn’t seem concerned about the possibility that his number one wideout might be used on some special-teams plays. Asked about it on Thursday, he gave a broad grin.
“You know what? We’re going to do whatever it takes to help us to win,” he replied. “So I know this: Tyreek has done it in the past. He understands the challenge that he’ll be facing.”
And then Bieniemy laughed.
“And I’m actually kind of excited. What better opportunity for him to steal a moment of getting the ball and doing what he does? I’m going to get my popcorn.”
If Mecole Hardman does not play Sunday, who do you see returning punts for the Chiefs?
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