Lechler chasing Baugh’s single-season punt record
November 13, 2009
ALAMEDA – The Oakland Raiders’ ineptitude on offense has been a boon to Shane Lechler in his bid to break the NFL’s single-season punting record.
Lechler, who already owns the league record for career average, is having his best season so far and is making his strongest bid yet to beat Sammy Baugh’s 69-year-old record of 51.4 yards.
It’s an achievement Lechler has been chasing since he entered the NFL as a fifth-round draft pick in 2000.
“It’s funny because I looked it up when I first got in the league and I’m still chasing him,” Lechler said Thursday. “I’d have thought somewhere in there I would have caught him but those numbers are huge.”
A four-time Pro Bowl pick, Lechler leads the NFL with a 52.3-yard average heading into Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. It’s more than three yards higher than Lechler’s own franchise record of 49.1 set in 2007.
Lechler, who also leads the league in net average (45.0), is attempting to become just the third punter in NFL history to average 50 yards or more in a single season. Baugh’s 51.4-yard mark came in 1940 on only 35 attempts while St. Louis’ Donnie Jones averaged 50.0 in 2008.
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Baugh, who passed away Dec. 17 at the age of 94, is the only recognized punter in the NFL Hall of Fame, though his resume as a quarterback paved the way. Like Lechler, Baugh grew up in Texas and was a high school star before going on to play in college and the NFL.
The two never met but Lechler, who signed a four-year, $16 million extension in the offseason that included $9 million guaranteed, admired the man known as Slingin’ Sammy.
“He was a hell of a player, man,” Lechler said. “He played (quarterback), he played some safety, too, and he punted. It kind of reminds you of one of those old Texas high school football players that used to play the whole game.
“It’s funny, you look back at those records and you see the numbers and you’re like, ‘Were their calculations right then? You guys serious? How close were you guys watching this?’ Because these numbers are amazing.”
It helps Lechler’s cause that he plays on a team with an offense that is ranked last in total yards, passing and in first downs. The Raiders are also 31st in scoring and 26th in rushing.
That has led to numerous opportunities for the punt team and Lechler, who is averaging just under eight punts a game.
“Unfortunately our situation helps him be the best in pro football,” Raiders coach Tom Cable said.
Notes: The game against the Chiefs will be blacked out locally in the Bay Area. … WR Javon Walker strained a hamstring and was unable to finish practice. … DE Greg Ellis (knee, shoulder) has not practiced this week but has not been ruled out for Sunday’s game.