Monday, October 24, 2011

The Punt

Your arms are shorter than your legs.  If you hold an arm extended straight out from your body and then hold a leg extended straight out, your foot will be farther out there than your hand.  Simple anatomy. 

Striding, extending the ball -
Punting looks awkward.  Anatomically impractical.  Extend arms straight out with ball in hands. Three steps forward.  Drop the ball.  Swing kicking foot up to meet the falling ball - there!  If arms are shorter how do they extend the hand far enough out to drop the ball where the leg/foot can connect with it? 

She's going to kick with right foot.  Doesn't it look like
the ball will more likely meet her right knee?

I don't know.  I used to punt the ball in practice, never in a game.  And somehow managed to get foot to ball.  But looking back, I don't know how.  It is inertia?  You're walking forward.  When you drop the ball it keeps moving forward while you're planting your left foot and that little inertia is just enough?

I don't know. 

But somehow punters manage. 

Clearly possible.  This is from a different time but I included
it because, in spite of my suggesting punting is awkward,
there is nothing awkward in this performance.  How does she do it?

I don't have many game shots of punters punting.  One of my favorite Outlaws is Melissa Griffith Griff - #6.  She's a defensive back and kicker.  I've admired her for her work ethic, for her resolve to master all aspects of the game including the lonely tedious exercise of kicking.  In this three-photo sequence, she seems to handle the anatomical challenge by leaning back just a little.  Looks a little awkward to me but she got the kick away and it sails a long way -

Griff with the ball from center, starting her motion forward.
See how she's extending it so it will be far enough out to meet
her foot?

Left footed!  She seems to be leaning back just a bit so her foot
meets the ball before it reaches the ground.

Sorry I don't have the ball in the photo.  I considered doctoring
this picture in Photoshop but that wouldn't be honest.
I can say she's made solid contact and the ball is accomplishing
the objective of getting out from the shadow of her goal posts.

Number 87 is Rowland (don't know her first name) a tall punter who also plays end - in a separate posting I'll show a wonderful sequence of her making a catch and hanging on to the ball in spite of three Dallas tacklers swarming all over her.  But this post is about punting.  She too manages to kick the ball in spite of the arm/leg length ratio conundrum. 

This is Rowland, #87, beginning her punting motion. 

She's dropped the ball, bringing her right foot forward to
make the kick.  Notice she's close to her end zone
so needs to make solid contact.

Once again, contact made, ball sails far and rescues the
Outlaws field position.

Punters have the same problem as quarterbacks and place kickers: time.  From when they receive the snap from center until they have to launch the ball is about three seconds.  At least that's the theory.  I don't have many photos to support that idea but I do have a couple that belie it.  These were taken from the end zone a few years ago.  Griff has the ball and apparently has all day to kick it.  Sometimes the line does a really great job and, as a former line player, I always want to post pics of the line doing good.

Sometimes the punter has to first solve the problem of catching the snap from the center.  Griff is
handling a less that perfect snap.  Someday I'd like to do a series on centers - they have an
amazingly difficult job.  Trouble is I don't have many good photos of centers. 
In this photo I really want you to notice the great blocking.

Griff striding into her kick.  She has all day to make the kick thanks to good blocking.  To add some drama
to my blog, I'm not going to post the actual kick, the actual foot-meets-ball instant.  I'll leave you with this
photo of anticipation, of will she kick it away or won't she?  I'm doing that for dramatic impact, for theater,
to make my blog a little more exciting.  And because I somehow didn't get that shot.  Someday maybe
we'll do more about photographing sports and getting the most important element of the action.

Ordinarily the punter is facing a charging defense and has to get the quick off fast.  Punters want to sail the ball high, to clear the heads of the line in front of her.  And high to give "hang time" - while the ball is in the air the kicking team is racing down field trying to get to the kick returner at the same time as the ball.  The longer the ball is hanging out up in the sky, the more time the tacklers have to get to the the returner.

In an earlier post I asked why we call it "foot"ball when there is so little foot-to-ball action.  Well, when kicking is involved, it is important.  Kicking off to pin the opponent deep in their own territory, kicking field goals or PATs for points, punting to win the field-position battle. 

Kickers have a lonely job.  Kickers have an important job.  Let's hear it for Outlaws kickers. 

No comments: