Tim Masthay is having the kind of season that makes a punter smile.
His 47 yards per punt would be a career high. So would the 40.8 average net yards per punt, and the 5.8 average return yards per punt. Masthay ranks among the NFL's top 10 punters in all three categories.
Yet, the Green Bay Packers' fifth-year punter may be better known for what he hasn't done this season. In Chicago and New Orleans, offenses kept both punters on the sideline for all 60 minutes.
How rare are those two no-punt games? Before this season, it had only happened once in NFL history.
Masthay has been part of one-sided, no-punt games. In his 2010 rookie season, he didn't punt in the NFC divisional round playoffs win at Atlanta. He didn't punt last season when the Packers traveled to Minnesota.
Masthay appreciates how bizarre this season has been. In this week's Q&A, he put the no-punt games in perspective and discussed how not punting in a game affects his routine.
What do you think about the history that's been made this season?
Masthay: It's bizarre. The fact that you've had two games with the same team, same punter, where neither team punted — and it's only happened three times in NFL history? The fact that two of them happened within four weeks of each other, out of all the games in the history of the league, it's just a really strange thing. I'm curious now — which, I haven't looked this up or found out from anyone — I'm wondering if the same punter has ever not punted twice in a season, in two full games in a season. I don't know if that's happened. Maybe that's happened, but I'm guessing that's extremely rare, too.
When it happened the first time, were you aware that was history?
Masthay: Once we got down to 4 or 5 minutes left, and I could tell the way the game was finishing up it looked like it was probably going to happen, that they weren't going to punt and we weren't going to punt. Once I realized it was a distinct possibility, I was sitting there thinking, 'My guess is it's happened before, but I bet it hasn't happened very many times.' Now, I didn't know it had only happened one time in NFL history, but I did expect that it was probably a rarity. It was even more rare than I thought.
Do you keep tabs on the other team's punter too, whether he's punted or not?
Masthay: Yeah, I know. Basically, when we're on offense, I'm punting in the net the whole time, I'm staying loose because we could potentially punt. When we're on defense, I'm watching the game much more closely because I stay off my legs. I try to let my leg rest a little bit when we're on defense. Then, when the other team punts, that's the transition. On top of that, I'm a punter, so I'm paying attention to what's happening on special teams in particular. So, yeah, I'm very aware of whether the other team has punted. With a few minutes left in the game in New Orleans, I was kind of like, 'You've gotta be kidding me. This is gonna happen again.' Sure enough, it did.
Did you ever have a college game at Kentucky where you didn't punt?
Masthay: No, I never had a game where I didn't punt. I had one or two games where I only punted once, but I never had a single game where we didn't punt, let alone neither team punt.
In a game where you don't punt, how much does that change your in-game routine?
Masthay: The only way in which it affects the routine is that I punt more balls in the net than I would otherwise, because the entire time I'm on offense, I'm just punting in the net and we never wind up punting. So I don't wind up going onto the field and cutting that process off. So basically, the only change is that I hit more punts in the net versus getting a few on the field. But mentally, it doesn't really change anything, because I don't know that we're not going to punt. So I'm locked in the whole time, and I'm preparing to punt because I don't know what's going to happen.
Do you talk to the other punter afterward about how bizarre that is?
Masthay: When it happened in Chicago, they've got a rookie punter (Pat O'Donnell) and that was the first time I met him. So I didn't know him, but we chatted briefly after the game, and that's when I said to him, I said something to the affect like, 'I can't believe that just happened. I've never been a part of that. That doesn't happen much.' Then the Saints punter (Thomas Morstead) is a friend of mine, and so after the game we chatted about it. Then my wife sent me a text not long after the game of an image they put on TV with both of us, and then that stat that it had happened a few times. So, yeah, we talked about it.
What did you and Morstead say to each other?
Masthay: I came up to him after and said, 'Hey, man, I don't know if you noticed this from a few weeks back, but that was history right there.' I was like, 'That's only the third time in NFL history that's ever happened.' He was unaware of that. I'm sure he figured it was rare, too, but he didn't know if it was such a rare thing. But I knew since it had just happened.
Is there anything that changes with your routine coming out of a game when you don't punt?
Masthay: The only thing it changes is, there's less film to think about, to critique. You don't have that, and then there's a little bit greater distance between in-game punts, obviously. For instance, now, we didn't punt against Saints, then we had the bye week. So I haven't hit a punt in a live-game situation in three weeks from Sunday. So those are pretty much the only things, though. One, there'd be less film to think about, critique, going to next week. And there's just a greater gap of that feeling, being in the game, in the moment, trying to perform.
Other than having to cover the punt, how much different is an in-game punt than booting the football into the net?
Masthay: So, practice punt is different from the game punt. A punt on my own off to the side of the field is different from punting into the net a few seconds before going out onto the field. Really, the main difference is that an in-game punt, in a game there's just heightened adrenaline that's just pretty much impossible to simulate in practice or in the net. So, the energy of the moment and the challenge of staying focused and composed is just heightened in an in-game situation, because that's the one moment that counts more than any others. There's all this adrenaline coarsing through everybody, so the energy levels are extremely high.
So when you've gone three weeks without an in-game punt, does that change how your leg feels?
Masthay: No, it doesn't change how my leg feels. Of course, I get lots of jokes about that, but, like I said, I was in the net the entire game. So, my leg, there's no real physical advantage to not having punted for three weeks. There's no freshness that comes from it.
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