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Huber punts on hit while NFL admits mistake


Shawn Powell

Updated: 8:30 p.m.

No surprise here.

Less than 48 hours after taking what many believe is an illegal hit that ended his season with a fractured jaw and a small broken bone in his neck, Bengals punter Kevin Huber was up and around Tuesday taking much of the blame for Antonio Brown's 67-yard punt return that blew open Sunday night's 30-20 loss to the Steelers.

Also no surprise.

The stand-up Huber wouldn't comment on the hit where Steelers rookie linebacker Terence Garvin drilled him in the chin with his helmet on the play, a blatant helmet-to-helmet hit according to TV replays that violated the rule that punters and kickers are always considered defenseless and should have resulted in a 15-yard penalty instead of a touchdown.

And in another non-shocking development, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino confirmed on NFL Network on Tuesday night what everyone knew. Via Pro Football Talk, Blandino said that Huber "was considered a defenseless player on the play under the league's rules and that the NFL wants to 'flag hits like that' with 15-yard personal fouls."

PFT quoted Blandino: "Huber, he's a punter. And the key is he's defenseless throughout the down. So even though he's pursing the play, he still gets defenseless-player protection. You can't hit him in the head or neck, and you can't use the crown or forehead parts of the helmet to the body." When Huber became the seventh regular to go on the Bengals season-endng injured reserve list Tuesday, the Bengals signed former Bills punter Shawn Powell after five NFL veterans worked out Tuesday afternoon on the Paul Brown Stadium turf. Among them was Chris Kluwe, a long-time member of the Vikings team the Bengals face Sunday at 1 p.m. at PBS.

Asked if it was a dirty hit, the soft-spoken Huber punted one last time in 2013.

"It's not an easy thing to watch," Huber said. "It's not my job to make that decision. He came for a block, he got me blocked, and they scored a touchdown. It worked out for them on that play. It's too bad it happened. I wish I could be out there playing."

Huber ran into the fray because he knew his coverage team needed help.

"I'd been harping on it all week to keep the ball away from him and then I gave one of the best return guys in the league a ball right down the middle," Huber said. "When you give him a chance like that he's going to take advantage of it. I knew when I hit it I had to get up there and help with the coverage. I put the ball exactly where I shouldn't have put it and kind of put the coverage team in a bind. They were expecting a directional punt and I gave one in the middle of the field, so I got down there and tried to fill in where I could."

Huber also offered no excuses on the game's first and crushing miscue, his dropped snap just outside the goal line in the first five minutes that gave the Steelers a one-inch touchdown drive and a 7-0 lead.

"The wind got a hold of it," Huber said of the 23 mile-per-hour breeze that blew long snapper Clark Harris's delivery from right to left like a knuckleball. "But I still got my hands on it. I still should have caught it, I still should have got the ball off. An overall bad day. (The snap) moved quite a bit, but that's something I have to adjust to. I can't make that excuse because I still got my hands on it. I have to watch the ball all the way in and catch the ball."

Huber, in a neck brace, says he's got about four to six weeks of rehab after surgery on his jaw Friday. The small break in his neck isn't as serious, but head coach Marvin Lewis said Tuesday there should be no problems in his comeback. Huber, an avid golfer, says he hopes to be golfing by March.

"Or when the weather breaks," said Huber, a Cincinnati native.

He felt good enough that he watched the Bengals work out his possible replacements and laughed when asked if he was now a scout.

"That's my job description now," he said. "Whatever I can do to help. Just another set of eyes."


  • Dec. 22: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Minnesota Vikings - **BUY NOW**
  • Dec. 29: Cincinnati Bengals vs. Baltimore Ravens - **BUY NOW**

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