With punter Kevin Huber out for the year due to a broken jaw and a cracked vertebrae sustained on an illegal hit from Steelers linebacker Terence Garvin, the Bengals can only go out and get a new punter. Which they’ve done.
The league can still do plenty.
On Friday, look for the league office to acknowledge that Garvin was fined for the helmet-to-chin blast on Huber. Even though Huber was trying to position himself to tackle or slow down Steelers punt returner Antonio Brown (who scored on the play), punters and kickers are considered defenseless at all times — even when affirmatively deciding to enter the fray.
It’s an odd quirk in the rules. Kickers and punters can’t be hit in the head or neck area, even if they’re sticking their heads or necks into harm’s way in an effort to make a tackle. The rules make them defenseless players at all times, which means no hits to the helmet/neck or with the helmet. Punters and kickers are expressly protected against any unnecessary contact when any from the play, but they’re always deemed defenseless under Rule 12-2-7(a)(6).
Although common sense presumably would prevail if a punter or kicker gets hit in the head or the neck by the may with the ball, the rule as written means that guys like Garvin can’t drive their helmets into the heads of punters or kickers who are trying to move toward the ball.
There’s a chance the NFL will publicly admit that the officials erred by not throwing the flag. Even if the league says nothing, the imposition of a fine will say it all.