In a relieved, loose Redskins postgame locker room, a whole lot of the players were going out of their way to congratulate Shaun Suisham — a guy who didn’t score a touchdown and had a stat line that was below league average in every major statistical category for the position.
Of course, that was because he performed admirably even when the position in question wasn’t one that he usually plays. Or practices for.
When Suisham was asked the last time he practiced a punt, he stopped, though for a second, and then gave a terrifyingly precise answer. “I punted two balls in training camp with the team,” he said.
And the last time he punted in a game? “High school.” David Elfin of the Washington Times asked if he had been good in high school and Suisham laughed. “We didn’t keep stats. Playing football in Canada, we didn’t keep punting stats in high school.”
Regular punter Hunter Smith, who left the game after straining his groin on his first punt of the day, had nothing but praise for Suisham’s effort. “Honestly,” Smith said, “for him to step into a position that requires ball-skills, handling the ball — for him to step in and to do a stellar job for us, that was really a valiant effort.”
Even the non-specialists were impressed. “People look at it [like] ‘he kicks the ball, he should be able to punt it,'” Casey Rabach said, “but for a guy to go out there and do what he did … obviously, his numbers probably don’t look great, but….” he trailed off and shrugged.
And Rabach is right: the numbers don’t look great on paper. Three punts, an average of 26.7 yards per, and a long of 32. But there’s one inside the 20 just when they needed it, and another that came out of the shadows of his own goalposts. (“Into the wind,” Suisham added when I mentioned that kick.) In other words, they got the job done.
Which is really all Suisham was looking to achieve. “It was enough for us to win the game. It was nowhere near what Hunter does, but that’s just what you have to do sometimes,” Suisham said. “For me it’s just gettin’ the ball, trying not to turn into a disaster.”
Rabach was trying to explain how different punting is from placekicking, and I suggested that maybe it was like him making the transition to long-snapping. “Sure,” he said, “that’s tough. I do it in practice every once in awhile, just to [mess] around, but I definitely wouldn’t want to try it in a game.”
Now, after a relatively successful pro punting debut, Suisham is pretty much hoping he never has to do it again. “I mean, it’s a little bit uncomfortable just ’cause it’s not something you rep hardly at all,” Suisham said. ” I just hope Hunter bounces back and is all right.”
It was too soon for Smith to make any predictions about himself, and he was more focused on Suisham anyhow. “He did a great job,” Smith said.
(All images by Brian Murphy)
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