You can have your college football opening night. Me, I'll be staying up for a West Coast preseason NFL game, counting off the 49er downs until it's time to punt. That's when Andy Lee will blow minds, break hearts, and fracture phalanges.
Lee hopes to bust out his secret weapon tonight. It's called the knuckle punt, and it's exactly what it sounds like. Let poor bastard Kyle Williams, who's had to face it in practice, explain:
"I turned to Ted Ginn and said, ‘What the hell was that?'" Williams said. "It's just like a knuckleball in baseball. It's floating up there, and it will change direction probably three or four times within the last 5 yards, 10 yards, and then it's right there. It's tough to deal with."
Just as a knuckleball can't be delivered with any velocity, a knuckle punt necessarily sacrifices height and distance, so it can't be used for just any old punt. Lee wants to use it in a fair-catch situation, in the hopes that it'll deflect off the returner's hands and be recovered by the 49ers.
The technique is a trade secret, passed down through the loyal brotherhood of punters. Craig Hentrich gave it to Joe Nedney, Nedney to Lee. Lee doesn't have it mastered yet—he says he can nail it with regularity in practice, but game situations are a different story, and so much can go wrong. So tonight, the fourth preseason game and the one most resembling a scrimmage, seems like a perfect opportunity to give it a shot.
Who knows? If he gets the knuckle punt down pat, maybe it'll make an appearance in a regular season game. Lee does play in the perfect stadium for it.
49ers' Lee hoping to test secret weapon in preseason finale [CSN Bay Area]