AJ Daulerio's Cultural Oddsmaker runs every Friday. Email him to let him know what you think.
This week's column is just bursting with punter-on-punter action. The motivation, obviously, is the jury verdict in the North Colorado state stabby punter trial, which decided that one Mitch Cozad, disgruntled backup punter, stabbed starting North Colorado State punter Rafael Mendoza in an attempt to get his job. Even though this assault happened on September 11, 2006, there will be no memorials for Mendoza's punctured leg: no commemorative pins, no televised concerts, no Paul Greengrass movies. Only the Colorado legal system could've provided any closure on the ordeal. And they did, finding Cozad guilty of second-degree assault. Mendoza should stop crying about his ordeal and be thankful that he was not a a six-year-old pageant girl found strangled in her parent's basement. That never ends well in Colorado.
But Cozad is/was a kicker, and kickers, in general, are wired differently. Some have more athletic talent than given credit for (Colts punter Hunter Smith, for example), and some are just blessed with a fluky ability to knock stuff a long distance with their foot. But their psyches are a little warped. Field goal kickers, especially, mostly due to the demands and pressures of week-to-week hero-to-goat syndrome that plague the position. But there is also a quiet cockiness about field goal kickers because on most occasions, they're also their team's leading scorer. But punters? Just potato sack-thighed nobodies who execute the most demoralizing part of the game; they're walking impotence with tiny shoulder pads.
And this time of the year is actually the only time that punters actually have to fight for their jobs. Rarely does a team carry two punters on its roster. But now even the most seasoned veterans are pushed; whether it be against an undrafted rookie out of community college with a big leg, or an Angolan rugby player who can supposedly punt a bowling ball 50 yards in his bare feet. There's always someone there trying to take their undemanding six-figure salaried job. Trying.
So this week, I'm lacing up my Mitres, ironing my John Teltschik jersey, and placing odds on the first NFL punter to attempt to off their competition.
White man came, across the sea, he brought us pain and misery...
Dirk Johnson: 4/1
Johnson is the incumbent, serviceable Philadelphia Eagles veteran who has been overshadowed so far by a giant 6'5" gorilla Aussie named Sav Rocca since the team arrived in Lehigh two weeks ago. Rocca is a former Australian Rules Football Star (never quite sure what that is, exactly) whose monstrous boots are turning a lot of heads. Johnson himself has stated that this is the toughest competition he's had in five years. And as Rocca, being a wild Australian, would be a tough man to kill, unless he's mysteriously attacked by a stingray. Johnson may have trouble smuggling one of those into camp.
Todd Sauerbrun: 1/4
Sauerbrun shamed himself a couple years ago when he failed the NFL's illegal substance test after his name popped up on a list investigating the Carolina Panthers trainer. He's also had a DWI and was suspended last year for ephedra. He also has this odd hatred of the Gramatica brothers that is borderline psychotic. Now, he's back, trying to latch on with the Broncos, but last year's punter Paul Elstner stands in his way. Sauerbrun claims to have mellowed out, but if he really wants a job, he'll get it. Each day, Elstner should double check that his shoes aren't stuffed with shards of glass or that his tee isn't outfitted with an explosive device.
Michael Koenen: 2/1
Last year, Koenen attempted to be the first triple-threat special teams guy — punt, field goals, and kickoffs — in the league since 1981. That didn't work, and the Atlanta Falcons had to sign Morten Andersen to kick field goals. This year, Koenen has one job: punting. However, pride has a funny way of fucking with you, and Koenen may still feel he deserves all three special teams jobs now that newly acquired Billy Cundriff is standing in the way. Don't be surprised if Koenen attempts to run over Cundriff with a blocking sled each day in camp until he gets his way.
Matt Turk: 2/1
Turk's been a fragile guy ever since his older brother Dan died tragically a few years ago from testicular cancer, and now after being stiffed by the St. Louis Rams this off-season, he's frothing to prove to the Houston Texans just how powerful his mighty foot is. But, but...it's Chad Stanley's job. Nope. It's Matt Turk's job. And Matt Turk will do anything to continue to punt in the NFL, because it is the only thing that keeps him from deteriorating into a sobbing mess each morning. Sorry, Chad. You hand over the job nicely, or Matt Turk will come over there and destroy your kneecaps with this helmet. And then Matt Turk will kick everyone you know in the face. Until you give up your job, Chad. Don't be a hero ... that's Matt Turk's job. Now hit the road, Chad.