|National Football League|
Rookie punter getting work with Raiders
NAPA, Calif. (AP) Punter Marquette King went into Oakland Raiders training camp hoping to get something on tape for the other 31 NFL teams.
An injury to perennial Pro Bowler Shane Lechler and a modification of his kicking style have changed those plans slightly.
With Lechler expected to be out at least another week while rehabbing a minor knee injury he suffered in the offseason, King has assumed all of the punting duties in camp and will likely do the same when the Raiders (tied 23rd in the AP Pro 32) open their preseason next week against the Dallas Cowboys.
It's been an unexpected but welcome change for King, who was a wide receiver early in college before moving to special teams.
"I'm a little tired but I'm excited, too," King said. "Rep-wise I didn't think I was going to get that much (work). I'm just here to do what I was called to do. I just want to get better, that's all."
King had his strongest day of camp Monday when he showcased his new style.
Gone is the shuffle, two-step method he used at Fort Valley State. Now the undrafted rookie is using a shorter, 1 1/2-step approach that has added significant distance and consistency to King's kicks.
The results have been encouraging, if not impressive.
King had a pair of booming punts during Oakland's morning practice, then added two more soaring kicks that hung high in the air when he was trying to pin the return man deep.
"When he hits it, he hits it as good as anybody," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "He's just got to work on staying consistent."
King is attempting to become one of only a handful of African-American punters in NFL history.
Reggie Hodges of the Cleveland Browns was the most recent, in 2010. Hodges missed all the 2011 season while injured but is on the Browns training camp roster.
"Reggie Roby, baby!" yelled defensive tackle Tommy Kelly following one of King's punts, referring to the former Miami Dolphin punter who was also African-American.
"That's what I'm talking about. Go get yourself a job ... just not here."
Therein lies the rub for King.
No matter how well he does in training camp or in the preseason, he's almost certain to find himself looking for work when the final roster cuts are made.
While Lechler is scheduled to become a free agent in 2013, the Raiders have no plans of letting him go. He holds the NFL record for career average (47.6 yards) and is a seven-time Pro Bowl pick.
Lechler split the punting chores with King during offseason workouts and minicamps before reporting to training camp with a knee injury. He is on the non-football related injury list.
"He's probably maybe a week away before we really actually get him out here and start working him," Allen said. "I don't want to necessarily put a timetable on it, but I wouldn't expect to see him out here in the next couple of days punting."
In the meantime, King will continue to do all the punting while doubling as a holder for kicker Sebastian Janikowski.
His new punting form, King figures, will slowly correct the kinks in his kicking style. After that it's up to the Raiders and the rest of the NFL to determine whether he deserves a shot and in the regular season.
"It's crazy," King said. I saw (improvement) yesterday when I started blasting punts after I shanked the first five or six. That's when I went to the 1 1/2-step. I'm going to do it because if I get cut, God forbid, I at least want to get cut blasting punts and doing it the right way."
Notes: DE Matt Shaughnessy limped out of a team drill with a bruised ankle. He did not return. Shaughnessy missed the final 13 games last season with a shoulder injury. ... DL Richard Seymour (knee), linebacker Aaron Curry (knee), wide receivers Denarius Moore (hamstring) and Eddie McGee (hamstring) and running back Taiwan Jones (hamstring) all sat out practice.
Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
Updated August 6, 2012