Kevin Huber, the homegrown Bengal who went on to play in a Bengals-record 216 games over the last 14 seasons while becoming the franchise's all-time leading punter, plans to stick around on the practice squad and help mentor Drue Chrisman while keeping his own game sharp.
After being released from the roster Monday in favor of the first-year Chrisman, Huber, 37, plans on signing Tuesday if he clears waivers and then be back at Paycor Stadium for Wednesday's practice.
"It will be like I never left," Huber said Monday. "It makes sense for both sides. For them, it's a nice insurance policy if, God forbid, something happens, and it also keeps me in the loop and keeps me punting."
And, Huber, the University of Cincinnati product who grew up on the east side of Paycor and played at Anderson Township's McNicholas High School, has another reason besides just being a classy veteran.
"I figure I've put in the time in the offseason, in training camp, during the season and why not take the opportunity to keep punting and keeping shape?" Huber said. "It's not like this happened in week one. We're going into week 14. I've been on the ride so far and I'd like to see if we can make another run."
Darrin Simmons, the only NFL special teams coach Huber has ever had, can understand that: "He was an extension of me on the field."
During Simmons' trip into the Paycor Media Room late Monday afternoon to reminisce about Huber's career, he says his favorite photo is the one from last year's AFC title game, where Huber is lifting up kicker Evan McPherson after holding for his overtime field goal that put the Bengals in the Super Bowl.
"I think Drue should want Kevin to be around here. I think the experience that Kevin brings and just the ability to relate to somebody in a different manner than talking to me would be invaluable to Drue," Simmons said. "You can't have more respect for anybody than I've got for Kevin and what he's done for me personally and for this franchise over the course of his time here. He's been a part of a lot of big, big, big games. He's been a part of a lot of big plays. He's been a part of a lot of rides with me personally … His experience and his time here is something I'll always cherish."
Simmons also cherishes the embrace he shared with Huber and long snapper Clark Harris when the Bengals won the Wild Card Game back in January at Paycor, the sixth postseason game they had worked together and their first victory. Harris, also in his 14th season, suffered a season-ending injury Opening Day and has been replaced by rookie Cal Adomitis. After Huber beat out Chrisman in training camp, he had a good start to the season before he struggled enough that by the Nov. 13 bye Simmons made the move.
"I understood," Huber said. "They had to do what they had to do. I would have done the same thing."
In what amounted to a three-game tryout with weekly elevations from the practice squad, Chrisman won the job while Huber handled it well. PS players can be elevated only three times before they have to either go on the roster or be waived.
"Good. Good," said Huber when asked how Chrisman is doing. "He couldn't have had two tougher conditions in his first two games," Huber said. "It was cold and windy in Pittsburgh and in Tennessee it was windy and blustery. He only had one punt Sunday in the win over the Chiefs at Paycor, but Chrisman had a good hold on a slightly high inside snap on an extra point.
Huber says he continues to punt in practice, but since Chrisman got the job Chrisman is doing all the holding instead of rotating.
"It's the first time since the Super Bowl Evan has had the same holder and snapper consistently and I think that's good for both of them. Let them get in a rhythm. I certainly don't need any more holds," Huber said. "We were talking about the one (Sunday) and how Drue did a good job getting it back smoothly on the spot."
Huber says he'll think about what he wants to do next season only after this season. He knows he could get a call from the other 31 teams as it gets down to crunch time. You can't beat his experience and his picture is in the textbook under "God Forbid." He is wishing no ill will on the other 31 punters, but he, as much as anyone, knows things happen.
Huber remembers once when there was a guy punting for a team that was going to the playoffs and the punter had his jaw broken late in the season on a questionable hit in Pittsburgh and missed the playoffs while his team went through two punters trying to find one.
That was Huber and the 2013 Bengals.
"I'm just going to see how it goes," Huber said.
That 2013 season brought to mind one of Huber's most memorable punts for Simmons. Oct. 6, 2013 at Paycor Stadium against the Tom Brady Patriots. The Bengals were winning, 13-6, and were about to snap Brady's streak of 52 straight games without a touchdown pass, but Huber had to punt backed up with 1:48 left. Just as the skies opened up in a monsoon, Huber caught the snap from Harris and launched a 57-yarder that put Brady on his own 35 and the Bengals held.
"I need time to step back and look at it all. I couldn't begin to put it all together," said Huber when asked about his top memories. "Certainly going to the Super Bowl is at the top of that."
That's one of the reasons he plans to be back Wednesday.