Special teams practice this afternoon, mostly working on kick and punt coverages with the JUGS machine. Shaun Suisham and Dave Rayner did some kickoff work, with Suisham getting the ball just into the endzone and Rayner putting the ball through the back of the endzone at least once, but I have no idea how (or if) the intermittent strong breezes were playing into that.
In the end, though, the most interesting thing to observe about the afternoon’s practice was Hunter Smith‘s new pair of kicks.
Burgundy and gold and fresh out of the box, they were eye-catching enough that there were two of us — me and David Elfin of the Washington Times — waiting to ask him about them when he got off the field.
“I got the idea from Fred Smoot, actually,” Smith said. “Fred wears these and I liked ’em.”
By this point, at least one TV camera and another print journalist had shown up.
“The true story is, we kickers wear soccer shoes,” he went on. “We try tons of new shoes every year, and this is just the next flavor of the week.”
“Could you kick with these in a game?” Elfin asked.
“I might. We’ll see.”
And how’d you feel about them out here?
“I felt pretty good about ’em. Apparently they’re causing a big splash, which I didn’t really expect.” Elfin departed at this point, but the media scrum remained fairly substantial, which led to an obvious question: Did people in Indianapolis care this much about your shoes?
“Well, nobody cares about my shoes except for me.”
This, I explained, was not actually true. There were six or seven reporters there, I pointed out, and when I had mentioned the shoes on Twitter, there had been an immediate request for pictures.
“That’s hilarious,” Smith said. “Well, no. I’ve never had anyone care at all about my shoes other than me. I guess it’s the color. They’re perfectly Redskins-colored.”
I, perhaps predictably, was hung up on an earlier bit of the conversation: did he really get this idea from Fred Smoot?
“I promise you. Fred has a pair of these in his locker, and when I saw them, I –” he stopped. “If you really care about the ins and outs of this…?”
We all nodded.
“It’s a synthetic, and there are no seams on the entire shoe,” he explained. “It’s all just one piece, and that makes for a really good platform for the ball to come off of.”
But it’s a soccer shoe, not a punting shoe?
“There are no punting shoes. There are only soccer shoes. Punters wear soccer shoes,” he explained (again), patiently. “Truth be told, they’ll probably never see the light of day on the playing field. But they might. I haven’t actually struck a ball in them, and I probably won’t. Next week, we will see.”
This was met with mild disbelief, that we were making so much fuss over shoes that hadn’t even been used. “You have to understand,” Smith said, “there’s a process. You wear ’em in the shower. You wear ’em in the hot tub. You wear these shoes where you can get water over ’em. You put ’em on, you stand in the shower or get in the whirlpool and what happens is, they get wet, they get hot, they stretch, they mold around your foot. That’s how soccer shoes work. That’s how we break ’em in.”
Smith stopped and looked around, at the multiple recorders, the TV cameras, the general assembly of people asking about his shoes, and laughed. “This is UN-precedented,” he said. “This has never before happened in the history of my life or the history of punters worldwide.”
Speaking of unprecendented, I asked how he felt getting top billing in Coach Zorn’s introduction to Fan Appreciation Day, and he shook his head. “I’ve never before gotten the intro. That is very rare, and let’s just hope it doesn’t ever happen again.”
Tags: hunter smith, HunterSmith, on the field at practice, OnTheFieldAtPractice
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