Punter Lechler values hang time with teammates
18th-year pro says bonding can help special-teams play.
— During practice, Shane Lechler roams the field, watching and listen- ing to his Houston Texans coaches and teammates until it is time for punting drills.
Unlike a lot of punters, Lechler is no loner. This is his 18th training camp since his days at Texas A&M, and prac- tices can last for 2½ hours, but he never gets bored as he follows a routine he established years ago with the Oakland Raiders.
“I’m a huge football fan, and as a punter the last thing you want to do is to isolate yourself from the team,” he said after practice Sunday. “When you get isolated, you get complacent.
“I wouldn’t say I’m comfortable, but I’m familiar with the process and what it’s going to take for me to get ready.”
Always on the move
Between special-teams drills, Lechler seldom stands still for long. He’s on the move, always ready to give advice to teammates who ask.
“I’m not going on another field to kick,” he said. “I like being involved with everybody. I’m a huge fan of everybody out here.
“When you get down to it, on the 53-man roster, just about everybody’s going to be part of special teams in one way or another, so you might as well get to know them and trust them. They need to know what kind of guy you are.
“I’ve been this way my whole career. I try to stay involved as much as I can.”
Lechler, 40, spends a lot of time hanging out with his buddies on special teams, snapper Jon Weeks and place- kicker Nick Novak. But he wants to learn as much as he can about more of his teammates.
“We’ve got to be a team,” he said. “We’ve got to know each other and our person- alities and how to handle situations.
“At my age, they’re going to ask me questions, and I want to help them out whenever I can.”
Lechler’s motto is a cliché but true: If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
He will turn 41 next Monday, and he’s coming off another terrific season, so he’s not about to change his approach to punting. And why would he? Last season, Lechler’s 47.5- yard average was the sixthbest of his career. His 40.1- yard net was his best since 2011.
Lechler put 30 punts inside the 20-yard line, the fourth time he’s reached 30 or more. His three touch- backs were the fewest of his career.
“I take a lot of pride in cut- ting down on the touchbacks last year,” he said. “It’s all about location of the ball. I have to hit it where the coaches want it.”
At his age, Lechler doesn’t think about distance the way he used to.
“I’m not thinking 60 to 65 yards,” he said. “Do I have that ball in me? Every now and then.”
Still fighting for job
The Texans brought another punter to camp: Cory Carter, an undrafted free agent from Texas South- ern.
But even if Lechler had the practice fields to himself, he wouldn’t allow himself to feel safe. His incentive is fighting for his job.
“The feeli n gs are the same,” Lechler said. “I come to every camp thinking this could be it, that I could get cut.
“That’s my motivation, my edge, every day. I have to prove myself. At this age, I have to prove I can still do it.” powerful general inducted Jones greet Razorback ing little a Chargers, a rowed filled stage ments over