KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) In what will come as a huge relief to worried, frustrated, restive and angry Kansas City fans, Dustin Colquitt sounds like he has no desire to leave the Chiefs.
If Colquitt does sign a new contract, it also will be one less criticism that embattled general manager Scott Pioli has to dodge.
Colquitt has become a deadeye master of directional punting, providing the Chiefs with hundreds of yards of valuable field position. He’s clearly one of the finest punters in the NFL as well as one of the finest players, period, on an underachieving Chiefs roster.
“I’m sure we’re working on it,” Colquitt said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Kansas City has been a great town for my family.”
Freed of nagging injuries, the 30-year-old Colquitt is enjoying perhaps his best season, even though the 1-5 Chiefs skidded into their bye week on the heels of one of their worst stretches in decades.
Colquitt has always been a fan favorite. He has also forged a relationship with owner Clark Hunt. And while not saying for sure that he plans to stay with the team that drafted him in the third round in 2005, he did make it clear he loves Kansas City.
“The Hunt family has been just fantastic owners,” Colquitt said. “They’ve turned into family just because of me knowing their kids now. I have kids, so we have a lot of similarities. And me and Scott have a good relationship. There’s no friction there.”
In last week’s 38-10 thumping at Tampa Bay, Colquitt was about the only man in a Chiefs uniform to do his team proud.
He unloaded a 62-yard punt in the first quarter, then finessed a 38-yarder all the way to the 1. Later, he dropped a 50-yarder on the 2 before drilling a 45-yarder that was downed on the 6.
Then in the fourth quarter, with the Chiefs backed up inside their own 20, Colquitt swung his strong left leg through the ball and boomed it 60 yards to the Tampa Bay 21.
After six games, Colquitt has had 16 punts downed inside the opponent 20. Only Tim Masthay of Miami has more.
“That’s a nice weapon to have,” coach Romeo Crennel said. “He does a good job of directional punting. And then the thing he’s been doing the last few weeks is in the plus-10 downing area. When a team has to start back there and go the length of the field, you feel better about your odds.”
While he refuses to talk about injuries, it was well known the past few years that Colquitt was hobbled.
“This is the best I’ve felt in probably about four years,” he said. “The big thing is health and getting back to basics.”
Colquitt credits first-year special teams coach Tom McMahon with planting the finer points of directional punting in his head.
“Tom’s really challenged me to step up to the plate. There’s times I’ve said, `Man, I don’t feel comfortable doing that.’ And he’ll find something on film and say, `You did it. That’s no excuse,'” he said. “So it’s been encouraging for him to come in and say, basically, `Look, if you say you can’t, I’m going to find it on film and then you can’t say you can’t do it anymore.'”
While the Chiefs have stumbled, the punt team has been guilty of only one big blunder. During a lopsided loss to Buffalo, Leodis McKelvin broke loose on an 88-yard touchdown return. But since then, punting has been a big strength for a team eager to have it.
“We had a terrible day at Buffalo, gave up a touchdown, which is inexcusable,” McMahon said. “But the best thing about these guys is they look at situations where we have failed, they don’t hide from them and they go fix them.”
A third-round pick out of Tennessee in 2005 and the son and brother of other two other NFL punters comprising “The First Family of Fourth Down,” Colquitt is making a base salary of $1.8 million with a signing bonus of $480,000.
Never one to draw attention to himself, Colquitt prefers to talk football rather than contract.
“We’ve had a lot of guys step up,” he said. “I realize it starts with me. I’ve got to hang the ball. I’ve got to put it on the appropriate place on the field. But our coverage units so far have been great. We cleaned it up after the Buffalo game and it’s been gold.”