RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Jon Ryan waited. And waited. And kept waiting for a chance to do his job.
For two straight weeks, Ryan stood on the Seattle Seahawks sideline as a spectator. Getting paid essentially to stand by and watch.
Then finally, in the fourth quarter of last week’s preseason game against Chicago, it happened. Ryan got to jog on the field and punt after 16 straight offensive possessions by the Seahawks where he wasn’t needed.
“It’s rare,” Ryan said. “In my pro career with preseason and playoffs and everything I’ve played over 200 games. I’ve never had a game where I didn’t kick. Then to come back the next week and only have one kick is pretty rare.”
Preseason is the time for teams to work on situations. Yet Seattle hasn’t gotten much of a chance to work on anything related to its punting. Ryan had three punts in the preseason opener against Denver, then didn’t kick at all in the second game versus San Diego and was on the field only once last week against Chicago.
Most of his game action came as the holder for kicker Steven Hauschka as Seattle had a streak of scoring on nine straight possessions with quarterback Russell Wilson on the field.
It’s become the running joke among Ryan’s teammates that he’s gone missing. Fans have gone as far as putting Ryan’s picture on the side of a milk carton and posting the images to social media.
Sure, it’s fun to joke about. But last season Seattle’s punt coverage was on the verge of an NFL record for fewest return yards allowed until Week 17. Trying to better that mark is the Seahawks’ goal.
“He’s a little underworked right now. It’s a good thing,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “We’re getting plenty of work in practice. We have a really good punt team. We have a bunch of guys that have played a lot together, so we have a lot of confidence in the whole mechanics of the snap and all that kind of stuff. It’s an experienced group, and we know they know how to play. All in all, we’ll take it this way.”
While teams like the New York Giants have already punted 26 times in the preseason, Ryan has four total kicks. But he estimates he’s getting between 100 and 120 kicks per week in practice and places more value on those reps than on what comes during a game.
“If I punt 100 balls instead of 105, those five game reps don’t make that much of a difference,” Ryan said.
Before last season, the Seahawks changed their punting approach. Instead of mostly trying to change field position with booming kicks, Ryan’s job changed so placement and limited returns became the priority. Seattle allowed only 21 returns on 74 punts during the 2013 regular season. His average dropped to 42.7 yards per kick, but Seattle gave up just 82 return yards — 57 of those coming in the final game of the regular season.
“I think just a lot of what it called for,” Ryan said. “What the coach wants, what the special teams coach wants, and with the defense like ours, you don’t necessarily have to risk a 60-yard punt and see what happens on the return when a 42, 43-yard punt and a fair catch will put our defense on the field. And that’s pretty tough to score against.”
Ryan may get more chances to kick this week against Oakland since Seattle’s starters are only likely to see a little playing time.
“I always want to kick but at the same time I know when I’m not kicking that’s also a good thing because that means we’re playing pretty good on offense,” Ryan said.
NOTES: Seattle made seven roster moves to reach the 75-man roster limit. LB Heath Farwell (groin), CB A.J. Jefferson (ankle) and G C.J. Davis (calf) were placed on injured reserved. WR David Gilreath, LB Horace Miller and DT Michael Brooks were waived/injured and DB Eric Pinkins was placed on the reserve/non-football injury list.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.