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fordfixer
08-26-2011, 03:06 AM
Finally healthy, Steelers P Dan Sepulveda in first real battle for his job
http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/re ... story.html (http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/redskins/finally-healthy-steelers-p-dan-sepulveda-in-first-real-battle-for-his-job/2011/08/25/gIQAWwxDeJ_story.html)


By Associated Press, Published: August 25

PITTSBURGH — Daniel Sepulveda was minding his own business, chowing down on his pregame meal before the Pittsburgh Steelers played at Washington two weeks when he looked up at the television screen.

“They’re saying Coach (Mike) Tomlin has 22 returning starters and the only competition battle is at punter and I’m saying, ‘Alright, sounds good,’” Sepulveda said with a laugh.

It says something about the stability on the defending AFC champions and Sepulveda’s own injury-riddled career that the battle to keep his job is among the top storylines heading into Saturday’s preseason game against Atlanta.

Sepulveda is in the midst of the first real test of his career, at least the first one that didn’t involve the trainer’s room. Jeremy Kapinos, who filled in late last season after Sepulveda tore the ACL in his right knee for a third — yes, third — time, is auditioning for the full-time gig.

The two have kicked to a virtual dead heat so far, their numbers nearly identical. Sepulveda is averaging 46.6 yards on five punts, with Kapinos averaging 48.6 yards on five punts.

Drawing clear for either player has been difficult, which puts the two punters in an unusual situation. They may be the only players on the team who don’t want the Steelers to score on every possession. At least in the preseason anyway.

“In the regular season when you don’t punt, that’s great,” Sepulveda said. “In the preseason when you don’t punt, it’s no fun.”

Neither is rehabilitating a troublesome right knee for the third time in eight years.

Sepulveda tore the ACL for the first time just before his freshman year at Baylor. He did it again in training camp three years ago. It was more of the same against Baltimore last December. He knew the outcome the second he felt the familiar pain in his knee.

Sure, he could have gone the “why me” route when he was told doctors needed to go in and fix the damage on his already scarred up right leg. Yet the 27-year-old Sepulveda isn’t much into self-pity, something he attributes to his deep faith and the confidence that comes from already working his way back twice before.

The lockout helped in a way. He was able to get through the surgery and the first two months of rehabilitation before the lockout prevented him from working out in Pittsburgh. That was fine by Sepulveda, who went home to Austin, Texas and did his own thing.

By then, he was well versed in the various strengthening exercises required to get back in shape.

“It was fun to get away,” Sepulveda said, “and just be yourself.”

When the lockout ended, it didn’t take long to hear from the Steelers, who re-signed him. But this time, they didn’t guarantee a job. Sepulveda knows his numbers are more than good enough to keep him in the league — he was averaging a career-best 45.5 yards last season when he the injury occurred — yet he also knows he needs to prove he’s healthy.

He certainly looked it against the Redskins. Walking out onto the field for the first time in nine months, he boomed a 62-yarder that bounced at the Washington 5 and rolled to within inches of the goal line before being downed.

“There’s a lot of doubts, there’s a lot riding on it, can he kick?” Sepulveda said.

It was a moment of exhilaration, one he didn’t appreciate until he saw it later on tape.

“You practice knowing you’re not going to feel the same when the game is on,” he said. “You’re always focusing on your mechanics. In the game, you just go. When you see yourself in the game hitting it, like ‘I didn’t feel it, what happened?’ You know you’re doing it right.”

Sepulveda feels as good as he’s felt at any point in his career and credits Kapinos for keeping him focused and stirring the competitive juices. Though they’re up for the same job, they’ve forged a friendship. They’re both left-footed and dedicated to their craft.

Yet there’s only room on the roster for one of them and they both know it.

Kapinos has matched Sepulveda nearly kick for kick. Their monthlong duel has also allowed them to remain fresh. They’re splitting the duties during practice, and Sepulveda says his knee feels better than the inside of his tibia on the same leg, the one that gets sore from overuse.

His career is most definitely alive and kicking. For good he hopes.

Oviedo
08-26-2011, 08:38 AM
I hope Sepulveda can do well and secure the job. He is a good punter. I wish he could do kick offs too. That way we could keep a field goal specialist. None of our placekickers fill me with any confidence.

I predict we will see a PK replacement during the season.

flippy
08-26-2011, 09:26 AM
Sepulveda will get hurt again and make the decision easy.

I really have no confidence in this guy's health.

steelblood
08-26-2011, 11:56 AM
I think Sep is great. Helluva tackler too. His knee problems are a real shame.

phillyesq
08-26-2011, 12:22 PM
For me, Sepulvda has the edge based on his ability to pin teams inside the 20. He has a very good track record of not recording touchbacks. Kapinos is a fine fallback, but I'd prefer Sepulvda and, if need be, a FA on the street if/when his knee injury flares up again.

Djfan
08-26-2011, 02:37 PM
Tough situation for Tomlin. He is either the hero or goat here.

Glad it's not my call.

Starlifter
08-26-2011, 04:13 PM
it's going to be sepulveda. too much invested in him and if he's healthy, he's the better punter. tomlin will not make a decision based on 'what if'. all things being equal if we cut sepulveda, someone else will pick him up. if we cut kapinos he'll most likely be available if sep goes down again. it's a harsh league but that's how the numbers stack up in my mind.

DukieBoy
08-26-2011, 09:37 PM
Vote for Sep.