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Do NFL Kickers & Punters Deserve The “Defenseless” Label That The League Has Given To Them?

Submitted by on December 22, 2013 – 9:24 amNo Comment

Last Sunday night, Cincinnati Bengals punter Kevin Huber (above) took a huge hit during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. The hit broke his jaw and left him with a cracked vertebrae in his back. And shortly after it happened, the NFL came out and said that Steelers linebacker Terence Garvin, who made the hit on Huber, should have been flagged for making the hit. Because according to the league, kickers and punters are always considered “defenseless” players on the field and other players should not be allowed to hit them hard.

“Huber, he’s a punter,” NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino told the NFL Network late last week. “And the key is he’s defenseless throughout the down. So even though he’s pursuing the play, he still gets defenseless-player protection. You can’t hit him in the head or neck, and you can’t use the crown or forehead parts of the helmet to the body.”

Does that make any sense to anyone out there, though? What Blandino basically said is that NFL players can’t make hard hits on kickers and punters because, well, they’re defenseless. And because of that, they can’t take hard hits. But to us, that seems to imply that they’re not “real” football players. And that sentiment didn’t sit real well with a handful of kickers and punters this week—like Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan—who said that Blandino’s comments set kickers and punters back and made them look bad.

We agree with Ryan, too. While Blandino probably thought he was doing what was best for kickers and punters when he called them “defenseless,” the truth is that they’re both allowed to tackle other players. So other players should be able to block them as best they can. This is football, after all, and when you step foot on the field, you have to be ready to take hits. Otherwise, what are you playing for?

It’s sad to see what Huber had to go through last Sunday, but that’s a part of the game. A part of the game that everyone, kicker, punter, or otherwise, has to be prepared for.

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