I just watched Reggie Bush run back a punt for a touchdown for the second time in the game, giving him a total of 176 return yards. Now Tirico, Kornheiser, and Jaworski are wondering why the Vikings even kicked the ball to him after he returned the first one for a TD. They’re saying that, from now on, punters will have to avoid Bush they way they avoid Devin Hester, and kick the ball out of bounds instead.
I don’t know why more punters don’t do that already.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some great punters in the league who can boot it high and long (Donnie Jones of the Rams is one, as he’s had to prove far too often this season), but far too many of them kick it down the middle between the hash marks, and then hope that the coverage team can get to the returner.
Why don’t NFL teams require these punters to develop more skill at punting towards the sidelines? That would increase the chance of getting it out of bounds or, at the very least, narrowing the field for the return man.
I also wonder why the NFL hasn’t recruited more punters from Australian Rules Football. My wife and I went to Sydney on vacation many years ago, and our friend Russell, who had played in a semi-pro league, took us to a game. I was amazed at the players. Almost all of them had the ability to kick the ball downfield to another player, the way a US quarterback throws it to a receiver, but these guys could do it on the run — and with either foot!
Imagine having a punter who can not only escape the rush, but can move around until the coverage men get downfield, and then kick it directly to them, instead of the opponent’s return man. I saw the Aussies do the equivalent of that over and over again.
It took the recruitment of some European place kickers to introduce the soccer-style field-goal to the NFL. It is long past time to get some of these down under wonders to change the way the ball is punted. They certainly would never kick it right to Reggie Bush.
You can almost hear the Aussie Rules players watching our game and saying, “That’s not a punt — this is a punt!”