12.27.08

When Kickers & Punters Emulate Football Players

Posted in Gridiron at 7:06 pm by

(Chiefs K Jan Stenerud, waxing his skis for a downhill run ready to lay someone out)

While the Giants’ Jeff Feagles is credited with a mere 11 tackles in 15 NFL seasons, the New York Times’ Judy Battista suggests the NY punter may soon be considered an anachronism, claiming “the most recent generation of kickers and punters seems to have made a philosophical choice to reject its reputation and dive into the pile.”

In November, Jacksonville punter Adam Podlesh proved the folly of having a kicker channel his inner Ray Lewis when he sustained a season-ending knee injury in his money leg while trying to make a tackle. Podlesh said he had since experienced fleeting thoughts that maybe he should avoid tackling to keep himself healthy. Then again, he doubts he will shy away next season.

œIt™s kind of cool getting down there and living the glory days of high school, said Podlesh, who was a starting linebacker in high school and has been relatively prolific with five tackles the past two seasons. œAt the same time, it™s also a job. In my mind, I might as well try. One thing I don™t like is people questioning my effort.

Pride seems to drive all of those kickers and punters in their quests to stop returners, who are usually the best athletes on the field. After all, nobody wants to flail at a returner. Kickers note that the sideline erupts when they make a tackle; a routine field goal means a pat on the back, at most.

Kickers and punters were once tough guys, like Lou Groza and Jerry Kramer, who also played on the offensive line. But the arrival in the 1960s and ™70s of foreign-born soccer-style kickers, few of whom had ever played American football, was soon accompanied by plenty of laughs.

Before a preseason game against the Chiefs in the 1970s, the returner George Atkinson of the Raiders joked with Kansas City kicker Jan Stenerud, who did not play football until his senior year of college, that he was not a real player because he never tackled anybody. Stenerud tackled Atkinson twice during that game.

Stenerud said an angry John Madden, the Raiders™ coach at the time, was said to have asked this about Atkinson, œHow could you get tackled twice by a Norwegian skier?

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