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Jon Ryan takes issue with league stance punters are “defenseless”

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

Punters are still football players too.

That’s the sentiment echoed by Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan in the aftermath of Cincinnati Bengals punter Kevin Huber being lost for the season to a broken jaw suffered against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.

The league considers all punters and kickers to be defenseless players, even if they are attempting to make a tackle. Dean Blandino, the league’s vice president of officiating, confirmed the distinction on Tuesday.

“Huber, he’s a punter. And the key is he’s defenseless throughout the down,” Blandino said. “So even though he’s pursing the play, he still gets defenseless-player protection. You can’t hit him in the head or neck, and you can’t use the crown or forehead parts of the helmet to the body.”

However, Ryan says punters shouldn’t be considered defenseless.

“Once you go down there and kind of get in on the tackle, I think you’re fair game,” Ryan said.

Ryan agrees that the shot Huber took from Steelers linebacker Terence Garvin wasn’t a clean shot but that doesn’t make him feel as though punters should receive special protection on the field.

“It’s just the way in which he hit him – that was not something I think should be part of the game. But when I go in and try to make a tackle, I think I’m fair game – I’m part of the play. You just hate to see something like that happen to the guy in Cincinnati. It’s pretty rough.”

Ryan and the Seahawks’ punt unit have been stellar this season. As a team, they’ve allowed just 19 punt return yards through 14 games. They are on pace to potentially break the record for fewest punt return yards allowed in a season and Ryan’s punting has been a major factor why.

He’s had to make tackles before – like a shoestring tackle of Devin Hester in the 2010 playoffs to save a potential touchdown – and if called upon again he’s more than willing to put himself in harm’s way. His positional designation doesn’t make him any less willing to make a tackle.

“I don’t think you should just punt the ball and walk off the field. You’re still a football player. I’m not trying to say that it was a clean hit by any means, but once a punter goes down there, he’s fair game,” Ryan said.

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11 Responses to “Jon Ryan takes issue with league stance punters are “defenseless””
  1. doe22us says: Dec 19, 2013 1:06 AM

    Punters are getting all their feelings hurt.. dont worry just wipe your tears. I agree with the fact that yeah they are fair game, but to me personally punters, kickers, long snappers belong in the non-existent category.

  2. osoviejo says: Dec 19, 2013 2:01 AM

    Jon Ryan is awesome.

  3. mrmidevil says: Dec 19, 2013 2:54 AM

    Thank you!!!!!!!

  4. 5to46hawkfan says: Dec 19, 2013 3:48 AM

    Thank you!!!! GO HAWKS!

  5. benrob99 says: Dec 19, 2013 4:27 AM

    Agreed. I’m a Steeler fan and it wasn’t that he blocked the punter… it was the WAY he did it. Definitely a fine and he’s really lucky the refs missed the call (imagine that) and didn’t cost us the TD.

  6. eventhorizon04 says: Dec 19, 2013 4:30 AM

    Agreed.

    If you’re actively trying to tackle a player, you’re not a “defenseless player.”

    Helmet to helmet hits like the one that broke Huber’s jaw should still be penalized, but a clean block to Huber’s chest should not be penalized.

  7. maurysline says: Dec 19, 2013 6:11 AM

    If a team wants a scrawny punter/kicker, and that is all they can do on the field, who can hit one from 70 yds out it is their choice.
    They take the risk of only 10 men on ST after a kick and a kicker who is relegated to watching after they kick.
    If they want an athlete who is only able to hit a 48 yd FG max but who is also a competent football player that is also their choice.
    This team has made the correct decision it is a football game and ALL players are considered part of the play.
    No way should they be given unlimited defenseless player status after the kick.
    Exempting one player , irregardless of their actions in a play, as permanently defenseless is ridiculous.

  8. lawyermalloy says: Dec 19, 2013 6:57 AM

    As they say” Don’t look a gift-horse in the mouth”! While Jon Ryan’s statements are bold and courageous, as a punter he should shut his mouth and accept what the league offers him by this lame rule.

  9. iamozzie says: Dec 19, 2013 7:18 AM

    A punter can run down the field, tackle a player, recover a fumble and is still considered defenseless? The league is definitely going the wrong way…

  10. gallopinggilmore says: Dec 19, 2013 10:58 AM

    If that rule needs to go than something else has to give. A) Kickers need to be payed a lot more, like defenseless QBs are. B)Kickers need to get a lot bigger. C) Kickers should not be allowed to tackle or block.

    Kickers don’t make much and a lot of them are trained as soccer players. They simply can’t stand up 200+lb highly trained athletes.

  11. kuranda84 says: Dec 19, 2013 4:25 PM

    If a kicker/punter is actively running towards the player with the ball with the intention to alter the play somehow…he’s eligible to be blocked. The block on the Cincy kicker was too much, and the kicker wasn’t really in position to do anything, so I think it was a good fine by the NFL. However, calling them defenseless no matter what they are doing is silly.

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