Masthay: 'This has been a weird, weird year'
Tim Masthay isn't about to complain. His lack of snaps are different than a cornerback, receiver or offensive lineman. When the Green Bay Packers' punter is on the sideline, it's a good thing.
For Masthay, it also feels a little weird.
With Green Bay's offense clicking at an absurdly efficient rate, Masthay hasn't played much lately. The Packers haven't punted in the first half of their past three home games. Twice, they've gone a complete game without a punt this season. In the four games since returning from the bye week, Masthay has only five non-blowout punts.
His 37 punts are fewest in the NFL.
"This has been a weird, weird year, but particularly weird the past month for me and for our punt team," Masthay said. "Minnesota, the game at Minnesota, was a fairly normal rhythm. We had four punts, and they were scattered throughout the game. At least in my time here, we've never been a team that's punted heavily, because we've always had a strong offense. So having four or five punts a game, scattered, that's kind of the normal.
"This year, it's not been that way at all. Especially the last month, as far as home games, I'm not sure I've punted in the first half since September or maybe early October. I can't remember."
The last time Masthay punted in the first half at home was in a 38-17 win against the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 19 – seven weeks ago. Since then, the Packers have scored 95 first-half points in three games at Lambeau Field. They've scored on 16 of their past 17 first-half drives at home, with 12 touchdowns and four field goals.
The lone exception was Randall Cobb's fumble against the Chicago Bears on Nov. 9. The fumble happened in the red zone, so the Packers wouldn't have punted anyway.
"I don't know if Tim likes me for that or not," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said Thursday. "Tim is usually the butt of a lot of jokes, but he's a great guy. He's probably the most athletic punter I've ever been around. I'll give him that credit. He's also the worst sheepshead player I've ever seen. So that combination makes for a good disposition for a punter.
"Has he been complaining about the lack of punts? I thought he was a good teammate, that he wanted to win first and not just get his stats up. He is the all-time leader in net average, and I think gross average. He shouldn't be complaining too much. Give him a little rest."
Kidding aside, Masthay's punts -- however many there may be -- are especially important this week. When Green Bay hosts the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night, Devin Hester -- the old Packers enemy -- will be waiting to return them.
Hester's ability to change the game on one punt return is no secret. Whenever he gets in the game -- if, in fact, he gets in the game -- Masthay said he'll take try to avoid another highlight.
"He's a very smart returner," Masthay said. "I don't know what all goes into it, but he sees the field very well. He sees lanes very well, hits them very well. It's no different now.
"It will be a huge challenge, just like he always is."
-- firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood