View Full Version : new attitude for Steelers punter

05-23-2009, 12:55 AM
New year, new attitude for Steelers punter

Friday, May 22, 2009

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsbu ... 26330.html (http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/sports/steelers/s_626330.html)

The first thing that comes to mind about Daniel Sepulveda's rookie season in 2007 was his last punt with the Steelers.

Sepulveda's 40-yard punt was low and Jacksonville's Dennis Northcutt returned it 16 yards to his 49. The Jaguars drove 44 yards and kicked the winning field goal in the final seconds to stun the Steelers 31-29 in a wild-card playoff game at Heinz Field.

"The last time I punted in a game was not up to par,'' said Sepulveda, a left-footed punter who missed the 2008 season because of a torn ACL in his right knee -- the same injury he suffered at Baylor prior to the 2006 season. "It was not what the team needed at the time. That one sat with me for a while and I think it continues to do so being the fact it was my last time out there."

Conversely, the Steelers missed Sepulveda last season. Replacements Mitch Berger and Paul Ernster were poor substitutes for Sepulveda, who averaged 42.4 yards per punt (37.9 net) and had 28 punts inside the 20 as a rookie.

Ernster replaced Berger because of injury and punted so poorly (31.6 yards, 31.3 net) that he was let go after only three games as the Steelers re-signed Berger.

The Steelers made a big investment in Sepulveda, who was acquired for two draft picks and is the only college player to win two Ray Guy Awards as the nation's top punter.

Although coach Mike Tomlin has not allowed Sepulveda to punt during offseason practices for precautionary reasons, the job is clearly Sepulveda's to lose.

"I had a pretty solid rookie year, in my opinion," Sepulveda said at the conclusion of Wednesday's practice. "My goal this year is to improve each statistical category and avoid the situation where I kick one and I want it back right away."

Sepulveda did some heavy-duty running with tight end Matt Spaeth after most of his teammates had left the field. His chiseled physique belied the fact that he kicks for a living, and showed how hard he worked to stay in shape while rehabilitating from his injury.

"It feels great to be able to do that. Running and cutting and doing full-speed stuff, that's nothing compared to punting," Sepulveda said. "The more of that I can do, the better I'll feel when I actually get to punt.

"Training camp's not something you normally look forward to. But it's a little different for me this year. I'm definitely looking forward to it. I can't wait to get back out there."

Sepulveda said he was humbled by his injury and his disappointing punt at the end of the wild-card playoff game. He believes those setbacks will make him a better punter.

"I think a lot of times we like to take things for granted. I could maybe feel a little bit of that creeping into my attitude and my sense of being here. A little dose of perspective certainly was involved last year and I can't wait to get back out there," said Sepulveda, who also holds for kicker Jeff Reed.

"Attitude's a huge part of it. And just being around here another year. Getting to know the coaches that much better. My teammates that much better. My living situation outside of football is becoming more and more comfortable. That comfort level relates very closely to my performance."