Punt Returners Are A Different Breed Of CatSeptember 26th, 2012
When the Bucs announced yesterday that Jordan Shipley was shipped out, largely because of his fumble of a punt in his first game with the Bucs — a mortal sin in the New Schiano Order — and the team signed Roscoe Parrish to replace him, Joe wondered why heralded rookie Michael Smith, who returns kickoffs, couldn’t also try his hand a punt returns.
So today, Joe asked the leader of the New Schiano Order, Bucs coach Greg Schiano, why it is that some guys can return kicks but struggle with punt returns, or vice-versa.
In short, Schiano said, fielding a punt may be the hardest skill to master in football.
“It’s really very, very different,” Schiano said of the two different skill sets. “In a kickoff, it’s an end over end kick. It is much easier to handle and judge off the tee than the punt. The punt spirals. The good punts spiral. A great punt gets up to the top and turns over and then starts to run from you. A not-so-good punt doesn’t turn over. That is the hardest skill there is in football, punt return. There is no doubt about it.
“Whatever punt (the punt may be; good or bad; spiral or not) you have, everybody [defenders] is coming at you and it is the hardest ball to catch that there is in the game. In college, you have 85 scholarship players. That’s a lot of guys, yet you may have two or three guys who can competitively field punts.”
This, Schiano said, is one reason why the Bucs are playing musical chairs with punt return men.
“You get here [in the NFL], you talk about a specialist?” Schiano said. “Long-snapper, punter, place kicker and punt returner. There are several guys that can return kicks. There’s not the “now” presence of defenders when you are catching a kick. And it is an easier ball. Punt returning is tough. I don’t envy those guys. It is a special skill set. When you have one that is good, don’t take it for granted.”
Nor is Schiano taking for granted Parrish is free of fumbleitis. One reason Parrish was walking the streets is that he fumbled twice in the preseason.
“That’s always a concern,” Schiano said.