NFL 2011: Is Punter the Easiest Position in Sports?
Barroom arguments regarding sports are some of the most entertaining forms of diatribe.
Unparalleled "expertize," over the course of a few beers, leads to debate that starts off tame (There is no way the Yankees win the World Series!) and oftentimes ends up leaning toward asinine (Why don't hockey teams use Sumo wrestlers as goalies?).
One of my all-time favorite topics of discussion are the most difficult sports and the toughest positions to play. The arguments are all fairly biased based on what sport someone played or what games they enjoy watching, but it is essentially a discussion that keeps on going.
To throw a slight curveball, let's discuss the easiest position to play in all professional sports...
Punter in the NFL.
Sure, every team needs a good punter and there is no question that he is a valuable addition to any team.
But, to pose a question for those who might be willing to argue this point—if you were the owner of an NFL expansion team, which position would you likely select last (or pick up in free agency) in your inaugural draft?
Yes, I would select a punter last as well.
Now, there is a thin line between easiest position and least important position. Lest I digress into the latter, let's discuss the former.
An NFL punter, on average, gets on the field between four to eight times a game. When you boot 90 punts in one full season and that is the extent of your job, I would say you have the easiest position in all of sports.
With the exception of place kickers, punters don't have to undergo the rigorous workout regiments of other position players. Their job is to punt the ball as far as possible, or pin the opponent within the 20 yard line.
And now that I mention place kickers—they score points and are oftentimes called on within the most pressure-packed situations. Outside of punting from within their own end zone, I have yet to see a situation where a punter is exposed to extreme pressure.
Some people have argued that a long snapper is the easiest position, since they are only on the field a handful of times as well. But even a long snapper has to block.
Punters get bumped into at times, but these are usually the most delicate of football offenses and almost always draw a penalty.
Even when a play is busted, the punter is the least culpable of the eleven on the field (unless, of course, he is the reason the play is busted).
If a punt is returned 70 yards for a touchdown, no one will ever yell at a punter for missing the last tackle (which usually ends with him falling over his own feet and sitting firmly on the turf).
But, if by divine intervention, a punter actually tackles a return man, you better believe his teammates will greet him on the sidelines like he is Ray Lewis.
Not to downplay the position completely, being a punter in the NFL is obviously not something every beer-swilling or PlayStation-playing individual can take on. If it was, everyone would run to the closest NFL franchise for a tryout.
This leads to my last point. Punter, while being the easiest position in all of sports, may very well be the most enviable job in the world.
You play professional football (sort of). You get to tell people you play professional football. You get to travel to great cities (for the most part) and spend your practice-time kicking footballs around like you were at the beach. And, you make more money than most executives while performing your job four to eight times, once a week.
In fact, punters may actually earn more money per minute of playing time than any other player in the NFL.
Oakland Raiders punter Shane Lechler earns roughly $3 million a year. Last season he netted 77 punts, for a grand total of $39k per punt.
Easiest position in all of sports? Yes.
Most enviable position? Absolutely...
If you like that whole "playing a professional sport while being completely anonymous" kind of thing.
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