BAD SNAP FROM CENTER
A punter has to be ready for anything: there is no quicker way to lose a ball game than to have a kick blocked. Since I constantly keep my eye on the ball, I can see in advance when the pass is going wrong. This gives me time—not much, but enough—to prevent a disaster. If the pass is low, I drop down on my right knee like an outfielder, my body in position to block the ball if it should take a bad bounce. Grabbing the ball, I rise up and begin my normal sequence, only much faster. I never reach for a wide pass. To do this would twist my body out of position and invite trouble. Instead, I sidestep, always keeping my body facing downfield, blocking the path of the ball and at the same time positioning myself to begin my punting pattern.
THE QUICK KICK
I have never used the quick kick in the NFL. Few teams in the league do, although the Chicago Bears and the San Francisco 49ers are effective exceptions. Still, it is a useful device to learn. Its purpose is to surprise the defense, catching the safety man in close and virtually eliminating his chance of a runback. On a quick kick where you stand only six yards behind the line of scrimmage, the problem is to get the ball away high enough to clear the rushing linemen but not so high as to allow the blockers time to gather and the safety to get under the punt. Of several quick-kicking methods, I prefer one called the rocker. In lining up, I appear to be in a normal running posture. As I receive the ball, I rock my left foot backward quickly, then stride forward on the same foot and release the ball at about thigh height, lower than usual. My right foot strikes the ball just below knee level, and the ball's laces are almost on a line with the laces of my shoe. The effect is a low trajectory kick with lots of roll and a tricky bounce.
FAKE KICK AND RUN
It is hard to fool the defense, which is practiced in reading the intention of plays. This is one reason why, whether I intend to kick, run or pass, I always take the same jab step illustrated on the preceding pages. With no sign or tip-off to guide them, defensive linemen generally can be expected to rush a punt and the secondary to drop back to catch the ball and/or block. Even the 250-pound tackles have surprising mobility, so I want them to take the bait before they can change the direction of their charge. Altering no details from my ordinary kick, I step off on my left foot, then instantly change directions. The trick is not to waste an instant. Pivoting on my left foot, I usually run to the right, pulling the ball in and tucking it under my arm. I run toward the sideline for five or six steps, then turn quickly downfield and run for my life. Often when I am going to fake a run, I don't tell my teammates. I do this to make the fake more convincing. Against the Dallas Cowboys in a recent exhibition, though a kick had been called for, I fooled my own team and the Cowboys and ran 12 yards for a first down.
FAKE KICK AND PASS
Faking a kick and passing is not very difficult except that you have to be able to pass. This limitation rules out the fake pass for a number of punters. Since I am a much better runner than passer, I have attempted to pass from a fake kick only four times during my pro career. I am frequently on my own when it comes to a fake run—this I imagine will last only as long as I am successful. But on a fake pass the team must always know of the punter's intention because the receivers have to look for the ball and the linemen are not permitted to go downfield. The secondary is fast to react to any change in punting coverage and this makes it less likely that a pass will succeed than a fake kick and run—unless the punter also is the star passer. When I do pass, I take my jab step with my left foot, rise up quickly and throw. I look for either of the two halfbacks moving in the flats or the split end down 10 yards from the line of scrimmage and turning inside. Remember, I am already 13 yards behind the scrimmage line, so the pass is bound to test my questionable arm and its questionable accuracy.
BY YALE LARY OF THE DETROIT LIONS
WITH MORTON SHARNIK