Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
In week seven the Indianapolis Colts took on the Denver Broncos at Lucas Oil Stadium. There was a lot of hype around the game due to Peyton Manning. There was one player, however, that got some unexpected attention.
With just over a minute left in the first quarter Pat McAfee had to punt the ball to the return man Trindon Holliday. Holliday is a great return man who can see where his blocking is and evade tackles as good as anyone in the league. This return was no different. He followed his blocking perfectly and with precision was darting the ball up the field. It looked like danger for the Indianapolis Colts. Holliday was nearing the 50 yard line when much to his surprise he gets blindsided by who else but the punter. Pat McAfee hit Holliday with as much force as about any player on the defense.
McAfee later joked that this was the most athletic 10 seconds of his life. This was surprising and funny because this is not what we’ve learned to expect from punters and kickers. They aren’t the hard hitting macho men. They’re the finesse players who are brought out for their fast legs and precision.
Fast forward now to last Sunday’s matchup. I’m not talking about the Indianapolis Colts. I’m talking the Pittsburg Steelers facing the Cincinnati Bengals. During a return Bengals punter Kevin Huber was making his way toward Steelers player Antonio Brown who was fiercely making his way up the field and threatening a touchdown. As Huber was running towards brown in an attempt to pull off a Pat McAfee type play, he was blocked hard by Terence Garvin.
Huber received a broken jaw and a cracked vertebra as a result of that block. Garvin on the other hand received a $25K fine because punters are considered defenseless players throughout the entire play.
Pat McAfee has joked around quite often about position discrimination. He’s made several comments in several situations regarding how punters and kicker are looked down on and aren’t seen as tough as real football players. McAfee’s comments usually come in the form of a joke or are at least followed up by some laughs, but he’s not joking anymore.
Pat McAfee was recently on the Dan Patrick show and said, “This defenseless thing, I don’t really know what it means. It kind of sets us back a little bit as a position.” He argues that it perpetuates the myth that punters and kickers aren’t really athletes.
McAfee said, “There are a few of us who are trying to debunk that theory and try to make plays and kind of gain the respect of our teammates by making tackles.”
It seems that McAfee is on a bit of a crusade to change the face of a position. He also told Dan Patrick, “If I hit a bad punt and some guys don’t make a tackle and I have to make a tackle for them, that’s my opportunity to step up for my teammates.”
Punter and Kickers have pads and helmets and they are athletes in a game where guys get paid to hit hard. This rule stating that the kickers and punters are defenseless needs to be changed. As McAfee has shown more than once, they can kick hard and kit hard. They have the same goal as the rest of the team, keep the other team out of the end zone.
Good for Pat for taking a stand, and thank goodness he plays for the Colts.