Punter (American football)

Punter (American football)

A punter (P) in American or Canadian football is a special teams player who receives the snapped ball directly from the line of scrimmage and then punts (kicks) the football to the opposing team so as to limit any field position advantage. The opposing team may receive the ball by stopping the offense on a fourth (or third in Canadian football) down.


Punters must be skilled in angling the football and/or kicking it as high as possible (called "hangtime") to maximize his teammates’ ability to eliminate a punt returner's forward progress. Punters are rarely well known, or recognized by fans, but play a major role in winning the field position battle. Today, punters have increasingly began to pull double duty as the holder on field goal attempts and also being used on kickoffs as well. One of the main reasons why punters are starting to take over the holder position is that the backup quarterback is usually busy with the rest of the offense and has little time to devote to holding. The deep snapper for field goals is usually the punt snapper as well (see long snapper), so the punter already has developed a chemistry with the snapper. Punters are also kickers and naturally understand kicking mechanics better, such as knowing how far back to lean the ball, and being a better judge on whether or not to abort a field goal attempt. Punters are also usually on their own for the most part during team practices, allowing them the time to work with the kicker. Many punters also double duty as kickoff specialists as most punters have been at one point field goal kickers as well and some, such as Craig Hentrich, have filled in as worthy backup field goal kickers.

Career lengths

Although most punters have relatively short playing careers some can have exceptionally long careers, compared to other NFL position players (except kickers). One reason for this is that their limited time on the field and heavy protection by penalties against defensive players for late hits makes them far less likely to be injured than other positions. Sean Landeta, for instance, played 19 NFL seasons and three USFL seasons for eight different teams, and Darren Bennett played 11 NFL seasons despite not starting his NFL career until age 30 (he had previously been a professional in Australian rules football). Jeff Feagles of the New York Giants began his 21st season as a punter in 2008.

Draft status

Ray Guy (Oakland Raiders) is the first and only pure punter to be picked in the first round of the NFL Draft. Russell Erxleben was selected as the 11th pick in the first round of the 1979 draft by the New Orleans Saints as a punter but also performed kicking duties as well. Guy is credited with raising the status of punters in the NFL because he proved to be a major ingredient in the Raiders' success during the 1970s by preventing opponents from gaining field position advantage.

Bob Cameron of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers (CFL) who, in a 23 year career, has the most career punting yards, with 134,301 yards.

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