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Will 'do over' rule for punts hurt punting team?

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Posted Aug. 28, 2009 @ 12:23 p.m.
Updated Oct. 06, 2010 @ 7:27 p.m.
By Eric Edholm

So let's say it's a regular-season game in Dallas, and a strong-legged punter from the visiting team wants to boom one out of his own end zone. (The first time this might happen could be Week Seven with Falcons P Michael Koenen, the team's franchise punter who can knock the air out of the ball. No offense to the first two punters who come to town, the Giants' Jeff Feagles, who arrives with the Giants in Week Two, or Carolina's Jason Baker, who visits in Week Three — you guys are just more directional-type kickers, God bless you.)

And why make it an opponent's kicker and not Cowboys P Mat McBriar, a strong-legged guy who easily could hit, say, a scoreboard? Hold onto that thought a minute.

Anyway, you're Koenen, let's say, and you're kicking from your own 15, wanting to flip field position. The Cowboys go to a max punt-block look, so your eyes are down. You're focused on getting the ball off quickly but also on booming it, knowing the returner might fair catch it without much in the way of blocking help back. You unleash a missile that zooms up in the air and hits the Cowboys' new scoreboard, just like Titans P A.J. Trapasso did last week in the preseason.

What happens next? Well, if you're Koenen, under new rules set forth immediately by commissioner Roger Goodell, you re-kick. That's right, it's a "do over."

OK, no problem, punters kick all the time in practice, sometimes in rapid-fire. But what's to stop the Cowboys from continuing to send massive pressure? And what's to prevent Koenen eventually from tiring or getting off a poor kick after not wanting to hit the scoreboard with his subsequent tries? Now you're making your punter retry his kick, except that he can't hit it the way he wants.

This is a bigger impediment than wind. It's the pink elephant in the stadium that everyone in the NFL is pretending not to notice but that the punter now has to kick around, or under for that matter. It changes everything.

Heck, the Cowboys might opt not to send pressure on the subsequent tries. After all, their guys up front only are running a short distance and the punt returner will be fresh, having not run anywhere after the first failed punt, but the punt team on the Falcons — namely the gunners — will have gone at least 20 yards, I'd guess, before the "do over" whistle is blown.

This hurts the opponents in this situation. McBriar likely will learn to play the scoreboard the way Carl Yastrzemski played the Green Monster wall in left field for years. The difference with football is that other than the Giants, Eagles and Redskins, most opponents won't play a game in Dallas but every two, four or eight years. It might not be something you can figure out exactly in pregame warmups, even as good as most of these punters are these days.

How incensed are some people about this? Well, for one, agent David Canter, who has represented some punters, wrote on his Twitter page a short while ago: "NFL announced the Cowboys video board doesn't have to be moved& it'll be a do over.Once again Jerry Jones runs the NFL& its decision makers."

Whether that's true or not, it does appear that the league is just praying this situation doesn't cause problems because they are clearly not going to be too proactive about it, other than reiterating the "do over" part of the rules that already existed and adding the coaching-challenge element to it.

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