Punter (football)

Last updated
Shane Lechler of the Oakland Raiders punts the ball in November 2008. Shane Lechler punts at Falcons at Raiders 11-2-08.JPG
Shane Lechler of the Oakland Raiders punts the ball in November 2008.

A punter (P) in gridiron football is a special teams player who receives the snapped ball directly from the line of scrimmage and then punts (kicks) the football to the opposing team so as to limit any field position advantage. This generally happens on a fourth down in American football and a third down in Canadian football. Punters may also occasionally take part in fake punts in those same situations, when they throw or run the football instead of punting.

Contents

Skills

Andy Lee Andy Lee - San Francisco vs Green Bay 2012.jpg
Andy Lee

A punter must be skilled in angling the football and/or kicking it as high as possible (called "hangtime") to maximize his teammates' ability to eliminate a punt returner's forward progress. A "standard" is that for a 42-yard fair-caught or out-of-bounds punt (without added yardage with the ball rolling on the ground), the ideal hang time should be at least a tenth of it in seconds (i.e., 4.2 seconds), [1] but the linear relationship drops off once it hits over 50 yards. [2] A skilled punter attempts to impart a spin to the ball that makes it harder to catch, increasing the odds of a muff that may lead to the punter's team regaining possession.

The most common punting strategy involves receiving the snap (15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, if not shortened to avoid the end line) in an extremely deep shotgun formation, then punting as soon as the snap is received. A less commonly seen strategy is the "rugby-style" kick, in which the punter moves to the left or right, outside the offensive tackle, and then kicks the ball.

Chicago Bears punter Brad Maynard (#4) holds for placekicker Robbie Gould. Robbie Gould kicking.jpg
Chicago Bears punter Brad Maynard (#4) holds for placekicker Robbie Gould.

Punters play a major role in winning the field position battle.

Because the backup quarterback is usually busy with the rest of the offense and has little time to devote to holding, the punter frequently doubles as the holder on field goal attempts. Likewise, the punter may receive some pass training to facilitate faked field goals and two-point conversion attempts. The punter has typically developed chemistry with the long snapper and is thus accustomed to catching a long-snapped ball.

Punters are also kickers and understand kicking mechanics better, such as knowing how far back to lean the ball as the kicker makes an attempt, and better at judging when a field goal attempt should be aborted. Punters are usually on their own during team practices, allowing them the time to work with the kicker, so the punter and placekicker tend to develop a close rapport. Many punters also double duty as kickoff specialists as most punters have been at one point field goal kickers as well, and some, such as Craig Hentrich, have filled in as worthy backup field goal kickers. Along with kicking, punters can run or throw the ball as well. This strategy is also known as "the fake punt." Another common term is called "the trick play." Teams will often use this key strategy when it is 4th down with maybe 8 or fewer yards to the first down marker. The punter can receive the football and run or pass the ball to another teammate. When scrambling the punter is live to tackle. This strategy is often used in a close game. [3]

Zoltan Mesko punting for the 2008 Michigan Wolverines football team. 20081011 Zoltan Mesko in action.jpg
Zoltán Meskó punting for the 2008 Michigan Wolverines football team.

Punters seldom receive much attention or fan support, in part because their role is greatest when a team's offense is a failure and cannot get within field goal range; they are thus seen as a necessary evil to salvage the incompetence of the offense. Thus, punters tend to receive the most attention when teams are bad, as they are often one of the few players on the team performing up to par. However, the punter can also serve to give defenses pressure to pin the opponents deep within their territory, so giving defenses a short field, or to eliminate the threat of a punt return touchdown by return specialists. [4]

Coffin corner

A coffin corner refers to the corner of the playing field just in front of the end zone, usually from the 5-yard line to the goal line. A perfect coffin corner kick is one that goes out of bounds just before either orange pylon located in the front of the end zone. The punter tries to place the ball so that it lands out of bounds or is downed on the field by another member of the kicking team anywhere inside the 5-yard line without touching the goal line, thus forcing a difficult field position for the receiving team on their next scrimmage.

This type of kick can also be attempted in Canadian football. The difference is that if the ball becomes dead in the endzone in Canadian football, a single point is awarded to the kicking team and the conceding team scrimmages from their 35-yard line. In most cases however, the kicking team prefers the advantageous field position, rather than the point.

Career lengths

Pat O'Dea Pat O'Dea.jpg
Pat O'Dea

Certain punters can have exceptionally long careers, compared to other NFL position players (there is a similar tendency with kickers). One reason for this is that their limited time on the field and heavy protection by penalties against defensive players for late hits makes them far less likely to be injured than other positions. Sean Landeta, for instance, played 19 NFL seasons and three USFL seasons for eight different teams. Jeff Feagles played 22 seasons as a punter, on five different teams.

Conversely, placekickers and punters can also have very short careers, mainly because of a lack of opportunity. Because the risk of injury is remote, NFL teams typically only carry one punter on their roster at any given time. Thus, the only opportunity a punter has of breaking into the league is if the incumbent punter leaves the team or is injured. Some NFL teams will carry two punters during the preseason, but the second punter is typically "camp fodder" and seldom makes the opening day roster. Unlike backups at other positions, backup placekickers and punters are not employed by any given team until they are needed; most indoor American football teams, because of smaller rosters and fields along with rules that either ban or discourage punting, do not employ punting specialists.

Career yards

Bob Cameron of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL), in a 23-year career, has the most career punting yards, with 134,301 yards.

Jeff Feagles holds the NFL record for career punting yards with 71,211 yards. He played from 1988-2009 for five different teams in the NFL.

Draft status

Former Oakland Raiders player Ray Guy is the only pure punter to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, as well as the only pure punter to be picked in the first round of the NFL Draft. Russell Erxleben was selected as the 11th pick in the first round of the 1979 draft by the New Orleans Saints as a punter but performed other kicking duties as well. Guy is credited with raising the status of punters in the NFL because he proved to be a major ingredient in the Raiders' success during the 1970s by preventing opponents from gaining field position advantage.

Evolution

Derrick Frost Derrick-Frost-TitansvsPackers-Nov-2-08.jpg
Derrick Frost

Before Guy's arrival in Oakland, many teams trained a position player to double as a punter (the placekicker was likewise expected to "double-up" at another position), even after the one-platoon system (which effectively required a punter to play offensive and defensive positions on top of their duties) was abolished in the 1940s. The Green Bay Packers won Super Bowl I and Super Bowl II using running back Donny Anderson as their punter. The Packers' regular placekicker, Don Chandler, was an All-Pro punter with the New York Giants but Vince Lombardi brought Chandler in from his old team to serve exclusively as a kicker after Paul Hornung, who set the NFL single-season scoring record with 176 points in 12 games in 1960, was suspended for gambling in 1963 and suffered a sharp decline in accuracy in 1964. Linebacker Paul Maguire served as a punter for the AFL-champion San Diego Chargers and Buffalo Bills in the 1960s.

The Kansas City Chiefs, who played in Super Bowl I and won Super Bowl IV, bucked the trend at the time by signing Jerrel Wilson as a punting specialist in 1966. Wilson punted for the Chiefs for 13 seasons, and combined with placekicker Jan Stenerud to give the team one of the best kicking combinations in the league.

Backup quarterbacks were commonly used to punt well into the 1970s. Steve Spurrier, who was stuck behind John Brodie at quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, served as the team's primary punter for the first four years of his career. Bob Lee took on the same role for the Minnesota Vikings in the late 1960s and early 1970s, punting for the club in Super Bowl IV.

Danny White played little as a backup quarterback to Roger Staubach with the Dallas Cowboys from 1976 through 1979, but was the team's primary punter from 1975 through 1984, when he gave up the kicking duties to Mike Saxon.

One of the last examples of a punting quarterback was Tom Tupa. A quarterback and punter in college, Tupa started his career in the NFL as a quarterback but eventually settled into a role as a full-time punter and emergency quarterback.

Lately, NFL teams have been turning to retired Australian rules football players to punt for them, as punting is a basic skill in that game. Darren Bennett, who played for the San Diego Chargers and Minnesota Vikings in his career, was one of the first successful AFL players to make the jump to the United States, doing so in 1994. Ben Graham, who entered the league with the New York Jets, became the first AFL player to play in a Super Bowl when he played in Super Bowl XLIII with the Arizona Cardinals. Graham is now a free agent. Other former AFL players who made the transition to NFL punters include former NFL punter Mat McBriar and Sav Rocca, formerly of the Washington Redskins. In recent years, an increasing number of Australians have been making the transition to gridiron football at earlier ages, with a significant number now playing for U.S. college teams. The five most recent Ray Guy Awards, presented to the top punter in NCAA Division I football, have gone to Australians. Tom Hornsey of the University of Memphis won in 2013, followed by two punters from the University of UtahTom Hackett (2014 and 2015) and Mitch Wishnowsky (2016). Michael Dickson of the University of Texas won in 2017. All three finalists for the 2016 award were Australians. [5] In the 2018 season, nearly one-fourth of the schools in college football's top level, Division I FBS, including seven in Utah's home of the Pac-12 Conference, have at least one Australian punter on their roster. [6]

Technically, Sam Koch revolutionized punting by developing many variations, due to his flexible hips in an effort to increase net punting average by giving the ball variable trajectories and bounce, making it more difficult for returners to catch and return. [7]

The New England Patriots were noted for almost exclusively employing left-footed punters during the coaching tenure of Bill Belichick, who has claimed the coincidence is unintentional. Left-footed punters have been increasingly used at the NFL level; at the start of the 2001 NFL season, there were 26 right-footed punters, four left-footed ones and one (Chris Hanson) who was dual-footed. By the 2017 NFL season, there were 22 right-footed punters and 10 left-footed ones. [8]

Notes

  1. Punt Competition To Play In Under Armour All-America Game on YouTube
  2. 65-yd, 5.4 sec Punt by Australian Punter Joe Gardener - NFL Free Agent Camp on YouTube
  3. http://www.sportingcharts.com/dictionary/nfl/fake-punt.aspx
  4. http://larrybrownsports.com/football/punters-and-kickers-never-get-any-respect/91894
  5. Goon, Kyle (December 8, 2016). "Utah football: Mitch Wishnowsky wins Utah's third straight Ray Guy Award". The Salt Lake Tribune . Retrieved February 4, 2017.
  6. Niesen, Joan (August 16, 2018). "Mitch Wishnowsky and Utah Are Setting the Pace in a New Phase of the Australian Punter Pipeline". Sports Illustrated . Retrieved August 20, 2018.
  7. NFL Films (2016-09-26), Boomerangs, Knuckleballs, Hooks: How Sam Koch & the Ravens Changed Punting | NFL Films Presents , retrieved 2016-11-08
  8. Vrentas, Jenny (January 11, 2018). "Punting Takes a Left Turn". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved January 11, 2018.
Positions in American football and Canadian football
Offense (Skill position) Defense Special teams
Linemen Guard, Tackle, Center Linemen Tackle, End Kicking players Placekicker, Punter, Kickoff specialist
Quarterback (Dual-threat, Game manager, System) Linebacker Snapping Long snapper, Holder
Backs Halfback/Tailback (Triple-threat), Fullback, H-back, Wingback Backs Cornerback, Safety, Halfback, Nickelback, Dimeback Returning Punt returner, Kick returner, Jammer, Upman
Receivers Wide receiver (Eligible), Tight end, Slotback, End Tackling Gunner, Upback, Utility
Formations (List)NomenclatureStrategy

Related Research Articles

Canadian football Canadian sport in which opposing teams of twelve players attempt to score by advancing a ball by running, passing and kicking

Canadian football is a sport played in Canada in which two teams of 12 players each compete for territorial control of a field of play 110 yards (101 m) long and 65 yards (59 m) wide attempting to advance a pointed oval-shaped ball into the opposing team's scoring area.

A drop kick is a type of kick in various codes of football. It involves a player dropping the ball and then kicking it after it bounces off the ground.

Quarterback Position in gridiron football

The quarterback, colloquially known as the "signal caller", is a position in gridiron football. Quarterbacks are members of the offensive team and line up directly behind the offensive line. In modern American football, the quarterback is usually considered the leader of the offensive team, and is often responsible for calling the play in the huddle. The quarterback also touches the ball on almost every offensive play, and is the offensive player that almost always throws forward passes. When the QB is tackled behind the line of scrimmage, it is called a sack.

Michael John Vanderjagt is a former gridiron football placekicker and punter who played in the National Football League (NFL) for nine seasons, primarily with the Indianapolis Colts. He served as the Colts' placekicker from 1998 to 2005 and was a member of the Dallas Cowboys during his final NFL season in 2006. He also played for four seasons in the Canadian Football League (CFL), where he spent three seasons with the Toronto Argonauts and one with the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Onside kick Short kickoff in gridiron football to try to keep possession of the ball

In gridiron football, an onside kick is a kickoff deliberately kicked short. On most kickoffs, the kicking team concedes possession of the ball and tries to kick it as far as possible from its own goal. In an onside kick, however, the kicking team kicks short in hopes of regaining possession of the ball before the receiving team can control it.

Down (gridiron football) in American/Canadian football, a period of time where one play takes place

A down is a period in which a play transpires in gridiron football. The down is a distinguishing characteristic of the game compared to other codes of football, but is synonymous with a "tackle" in rugby league. The team in possession of the football has a limited number of downs to advance ten yards or more towards their opponent's goal line. If they fail to advance that far, possession of the ball is turned over to the other team. In most situations, if a team reaches their final down they will punt to their opponent, which forces them to begin their drive from further down the field; if they are in range, they might instead attempt to score a field goal.

Ray Guy American football punter

William Ray Guy is an American former professional football player who was a punter for the Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders of the National Football League (NFL). Guy was a unanimous All-American selection in 1972 as a senior at the University of Southern Mississippi, and was the first pure punter ever to be drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft, when the Oakland Raiders selected him with the 23rd overall pick in 1973. Guy was elected to both the College Football Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2014. A six-time NFL All-Pro, Guy is widely considered to be the greatest punter of all time.

Placekicker Player position in American and Canadian football

Placekicker, or simply kicker, is the player in gridiron football who is responsible for the kicking duties of field goals and extra points. In many cases, the placekicker also serves as the team's kickoff specialist or punter as well.

In gridiron football, a quick kick is any punt made under conditions such that the opposing team "should not" expect a punt. Typically this has been a kick from scrimmage from a formation that is, or resembles, one usually used other than for punting, or at least not resembling the one usually used for punting. Typically it will also be on some down before last down, unless done from a formation usually used for place kicking.

Strategy forms a major part of American football. Both teams plan many aspects of their plays (offense) and response to plays (defense), such as what formations they take, who they put on the field, and the roles and instructions each player are given. Throughout a game, each team adapts to the other's apparent strengths and weaknesses, trying various approaches to outmaneuver or overpower their opponent in order to win the game.

American football rules Rules for American football

Game play in American football consists of a series of downs, individual plays of short duration, outside of which the ball is dead or not in play. These can be plays from scrimmage – passes, runs, punts, or field goal attempts – or free kicks such as kickoffs and fair catch kicks. Substitutions can be made between downs, which allows for a great deal of specialization as coaches choose the players best suited for each particular situation. During a play, each team should have no more than 11 players on the field, and each of them has specific tasks assigned for that specific play.

Holder (gridiron football) American football position

In gridiron football, the holder is the player who receives the snap from the long snapper during field goal or extra point attempts made by the placekicker. The holder is set on one knee seven yards behind the line-of-scrimmage. Before the play begins he places the hand which is closest to the place kicker on the ground in a location designated by the kickers foot, with his forward hand ready to receive the snap. After receiving the snap, the holder will place the football on the turf, or block, ideally with the laces facing the uprights and the ball accurately placed where the back hand was initially, then balancing the ball with one or two fingers until the ball is kicked.

Gunner (American football) specialist position in American football special teams, who runs down the sideline very quickly in an attempt to tackle the kick or punt returner

In American football, a gunner, also known as a shooter, flyer, headhunter, or kamikaze, is a player on kickoffs and punts who specializes in running down the sideline very quickly in an attempt to tackle the kick or punt returner. Gunners must have several techniques in order to break away or "shed" blockers, and have good agility in order to change their running direction quickly. Gunners on the punt team also must be able to block or catch.

American football positions Positions in American football

In American football each team has 11 players on the field at one time. The specific role that a player takes on the field is called their position. Under the modern rules of American football, teams are allowed free substitutions; that is, teams may change any number of players after any play. This has resulted in the development of three "platoons" of players: the offense, the defense, and the special teams. Within those platoons, various specific positions exist depending on what each player's main job is.

Field goal means of scoring in American football and Canadian football

A field goal (FG) is a means of scoring in gridiron football. To score a field goal, the team in possession of the ball must place kick, or drop kick, the ball through the goal, i.e., between the uprights and over the crossbar. American football requires that a field goal must only come during a play from scrimmage, while Canadian football retains open field kicks and thus field goals may be scored at any time from anywhere on the field and by any player. The vast majority of field goals, in both codes, are place kicked. Drop kicked field goals were common in the early days of Gridiron football but are almost never done in modern times. In most leagues, a successful field goal awards three points.

Return specialist American/Canadian football player who specializes in kick returns

A return specialist or kick returner is a player on the special teams unit of a gridiron football team who specializes in returning punts and kickoffs. There are few players who are exclusively return specialists; most also play another position such as wide receiver, defensive back, or running back. The special teams counterpart of a return specialist is a kicking specialist.

A kickoff specialist is a seldom-used position in gridiron football. Kickoff specialists are members of the special teams. They are responsible for kicking the ball in the kickoff. These players tend to have a strong leg, often capable of making touchbacks, and capable of keeping a ball in the bounds of the field of play but do not have the accuracy or technique required to be a full-time placekicker or punter. Some kickoff specialists later become full-time placekickers, while some are marginal placekickers who are soon out of football.

Field goal range is the part of the field in American football where there is a good chance that a field goal attempt will be successful.

A fake field goal is a trick play in American football. Simply, it involves a running or passing play done out of a kick formation. Usually the holder will throw or run. Danny White was both quarterback and punter for the Dallas Cowboys in the 1980s and often executed this play. Less frequently, the placekicker, who virtually never handles the ball in an American football game, will serve as the passer or rusher on a fake field goal. Examples include then-New England kicker Adam Vinatieri receiving a direct snap and throwing a touchdown pass during an NFL game in 2004, and LSU kicker Colt David rushing for a 15-yard touchdown in 2007 after receiving the ball on a blind lateral from holder Matt Flynn.

Punt (gridiron football) Drop kick downfield to the opposing team in American football

In gridiron football, a punt is a kick performed by dropping the ball from the hands and then kicking the ball before it hits the ground. The most common use of this tactic is to punt the ball downfield to the opposing team, usually on the final down, with the hope of giving the receiving team a field position that is more advantageous to the kicking team when possession changes. The result of a typical punt, barring any penalties or extraordinary circumstances, is a first down for the receiving team. A punt is not to be confused with a drop kick, a kick after the ball hits the ground, now rare in both American and Canadian football.