Punter Lech­ler val­ues hang time with team­mates

18th-year pro says bond­ing can help special-teams play.

Austin American-Statesman - - NFL - By John McClain Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

— 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

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