preload preload preload preload preload preload
0 Comments | Aug 09, 2010

Interview With the Punter

PuntingFollowing is the complete unedited transcript of an extended interview conducted by Rolling Stone Feature Editor Marvin Foxtrap with Detroit Lions punter/place kicker Ryan Mitchell, following his team’s 45-6 loss to the Dallas Cowboys, during which game Mitchell missed 3 field goals, made 2, and punted an NFC single-game record 18 times, of which 3 were blocked, averaging 26 yards per punt.

MF: Ryan, I want to spend a bit of time talking about tonight’s game, but before we get into that I’d like to hear your overall take on the job. Place-kickers get a lot of criticism for having the lightest job on the field. What’re your thoughts on the job?

RM: You are absolutely right. Kickers take a lot of shit from their teammates. But hey, I wear the uniform, just like everybody else on this goddamned team, all right?! I give it up just as much as anybody else out there….well, all right, maybe not quite as much as some of the others, but I leave it all on the field, you know. And who’s the guy that’s the only thing between them and having to defend from their own friggin’ five-yard line?? Me! The punter…that’s right. Fuck…

Always whining about their pain and how it takes an hour to get out of bed every Monday morning. You think it’s fun having your ACL stretched so tight it’s like a fucking piano string? You think it’s fun having eleven guys trying to leap the hell on top of you while you’re in the middle of a hundred and eighty degree groin split and you can’t even see it coming? And couldn’t do jack shit about it even if you did see it coming?

Oh, I know what everybody thinks about kickers. Yeah, I know…don’t think I don’t know. I hear it from the team, from the coaches, sportscasters, freakin’ everybody right down to the last retard out there playing fantasy football. I’m not an idiot, all right. Yeah, that’s right—I’m one of the guys who got an actual goddamned diploma while I was in college, not some piece-of-shit kinesiology degree. Majoring in gym class for Christ’s sake….what a fucking joke. I didn’t have to subject myself to this shit, you know. I could have gotten a real job instead of listening to these guys laughing their steroid-hardened asses off in the locker room every fucking Sunday just because my uniform isn’t as shit-stained as theirs after the game.

I’ve taken a few licks too you know. Like just last week that fuck Winchester or Westchester or whatever the hell his name is plays left guard for the Redskins—Guy blindsides me two goddamned seconds after I’ve kicked the ball. I mean, honest to Christ, the ball’s already been caught, the guy’s run it back ten yards and been tackled. The play’s blown fucking dead and this guy’s still knocking me on my ass. Funny shit, all right. Ha fucking ha. Bent my damned index finger all to hell falling down, besides which he shat up my new uniform…big fucking grass stain all down the right thigh. You think that shit washes right out, do you? The son of a bitch hits me so late the refs are all the way back down the field where the ball is, so of course no one sees shit up at my end.

Oh, oh, and how many times has my almost completely unpadded ass had to actually tackle the fucker running the ball back—my own kick, thank you very much—because the ten of them are such spazzes that not one of ‘em can get their friggin’ hands on him??? Four times this season so far—four fuckin’ times. Do I look like a free safety to you? Do I? Shit, it’s like watching that part of a rodeo where the kids are chasing the damned calves around.

Oh, and as long as we’re getting stuff out on the table here, before anyone starts giving me shit about being just a dumb-ass kicker, remember there’s a reason they call it football, all right? Do you see anybody else out there actually kicking the goddamned ball? With his foot? Do you? I don’t think so…

And don’t even get me started on that dickweed Henderson and his holding. Jesus, it’s a miracle I managed to get two field goals tonight. No wonder the guy got demoted from QB to place-kick holder. He couldn’t hold his own ass with both hands. Dumb shit holds the ball like he has Parkinson’s or something. I’d do a better job just drop-kicking the fucking thing. Laces out, ball tilted back a little—is that asking too much? Jesus, my grandmother could do it. Damned candy-ass is afraid I’m going to kick him in the hand again. I tell you, you make one mistake and some bastards never let you forget it. And every time I say something about it, all I get is how shitty Paulsen’s long snaps are. Look, I don’t give a damn about all the lame excuses. I expect to take three steps and kick the goddamned ball, not listen to some overpaid prima donna whine about his fucking long-snapper.

I’m sorry—what was the question again??

MF: No worries. I think you covered it pretty well. Talk about your punting tonight. Eighteen punts in one game. That’s a lot of three-and-outs. Probably more field time than you’ve had all season.

RM: Well, it sure as hell felt like it. Ten punts just in the first half. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate the practice and all, but c’mon—could we generate a little offense maybe? You see that score? You see our six fuck-all points? A hundred and twenty nine million dollars worth of payroll prancing around on that goddamned field and who scores the only points of the night? The league-fucking-minimum place kicker—that’s who! But do I get so much as a thank-you? Take a guess…

MF: It’s not often you hear NFL players willing to publicly criticize their fellow team members, or even their team as a whole. Do you think there could be repercussions from your comments here tonight?

RM: Yeah, well it’s not often I get knocked flat on my ass seven times in one game either. The only person who spent more time on the ground than me tonight was the QB, who by the way has gotten pretty used to that position this season, in case you hadn’t noticed. Besides, what’s gonna’ happen? You think the team is going to think any less of me if I bitch about how they did tonight? They don’t give a rat’s fuzzy ass about me to begin with. You think they’re going to stop blocking the punt rush and just let the defense through? Shit, that’d be a hell of a change, huh? What? Am I gonna’ get a wedgie in the locker room or something? This isn’t fucking high school, though you wouldn’t know it to see some of these pinheads play.

MF: You mentioned your compensation a minute ago. How is it that a place kicker in his ninth year in the league is still making league minimum?

RM: Two words—dipshit agent. I guess that’s three…I don’t know…whatever. First of all, let’s set the record straight about something. Agents aren’t exactly falling all over themselves to represent kickers, all right. I think my agent moonlights representing romance novel authors or something. Way I see it, it’s a goddamned miracle I even get a paycheck with the lame-ass crowds we draw. And don’t get me wrong here—I get that seven hundred large is a lot of money for a guy who spends maybe thirty seconds a game on the field and who hardly ever gets touched by the other team. I get that. I’m not an idiot, all right.

It doesn’t help that I happen to play for the shittiest team in the league—not the division, mind you—the whole honest-to-Christ NFL. Closest we’ve ever come to the playoffs was hosting the Super Bowl in our stadium four years ago. And it was all I could do to even get a handful of tickets to the fucking game! My own damned stadium. I mean how lame do you have to be for the league’s best running back ever to just say fuck it and walk away at the height of his career, twenty yards or whatever away from setting the all-time rushing record. From what I can tell, Barry’d rather be washing dishes at Bennigan’s than playing with this bunch of scrubs.

MF: Talk a little about the stress of the job. Seems to come down to that last-second kick a fair percentage of the time. How do you prepare for that moment after you’ve spent most of the game standing on the sideline?

RM: Yeah, ain’t it funny how that happens? I’m the guy nobody gives a fat rat’s ass about until there’s three seconds left and we’re down by two points and on the other guy’s forty yard line. Oh sure, Ryan, it’s only a fifty-five yarder and the wind’s blowing like a fucking typhoon left to right. Oh and by the way they’ve replaced their nose guard for this one play with some washed-up ex-NBA center who’s seven-foot-five. But hey, what the fuck, go on out there and knock yourself out. We’re all counting on you, buddy. Now suddenly I’m everybody’s buddy.

Yeah, it’s a little stressful, I guess. I mean it’s one thing to stand there on the sideline kicking the ball into that freakin’ little net over and over. It’s quite another to go out there with seventy thousand screaming fans, and five thousand of ‘em waving those goddamned plastic noisemaker things in the end zone behind the goal. I mean shit they may as well set off fireworks during the kick while they’re at it. Couldn’t make it any worse. Nothing much you can do to actually prepare, I guess. I mean I’m not into zen or meditation or any of that shit, if that’s what you’re asking. Hey maybe next game that’s what I’ll do. I’ll take off my helmet and tie one of those kung-fu bandannas around my head. Maybe I can hire some Mr. Miyagi guy to walk out there with me and we can light some incense or something right before the kick. That’d freak everybody out, right?  Or…or maybe I’ll do like that black guy from the Major League movie who walks up to the plate with a paper bag over his head. Fans’d go nuts for that shit, I’ll bet.

MF: Did you ever go in for the barefoot kicking thing?

RM: Not if I wanted my career to last more than half an hour. You ever walked on a football field in Detroit in December? I’m thinking not. Kicking that fucking ball is like kicking the side of a damned pickup truck. There’ve been days when I thought about wearing steel toes out there, except that I’d probably blow my knee out trying it.

MF: Speaking of which, you’ve managed to enjoy a relatively injury-free career.

RM: Yeah, no thanks to my teammates. Worst I ever had was a hyper-extended knee once. Green Bay game six years ago. I must have done something wrong when I was stretching out, because I’ll tell you, I kicked that ball a freakin’ mile. But, man, when that calf just kept on rotating up past the point where your knee is supposed to lock, well let me tell you, that is some kind of fun. Go back and watch it on slow-mo. Still hurts me just to watch it. And then, don’t you know it, just to add insult to injury, some douche from the Packers falls the fuck on top of me while I’m already laying their writhing around. I tell you, it’s a hell of a way to make a living. Kind of like what they say about airline pilots—hours of boredom interspersed with a few occasional seconds of sheer terror.

MF: What do you see happening after you’re done playing ball?

RM: Well, since I’ll be a retired pro athlete, I’m pretty sure the law requires that I either open a bad restaurant or buy a car dealership. I’m sure as hell not going out on the autograph circuit. I don’t want to be the pathetic washed-up kicker sitting there at some card table in a Holiday Inn signing footballs for fifty bucks a throw. Maybe I’ll get into broadcasting; that’s every jock’s wet dream, right? But how many actually pull it off? Problem is there are these little requirements that sort of go with the job, you know, like being able to talk in complete sentences, and also not looking like a guy who’s had his nose broken eight or ten times. So unless you’re Marino or some loud obnoxious ex-coach like Madden, that’s a pretty low-odds route. Hell, I don’t know. I’m not too worried about it right now. Shit, I’m only thirty-six. Frickin’ Blanda kept kicking ‘til he was in his fifties for Christ’s sake. That’s one good thing about this job, I guess. Maybe I stick around long enough I can break the record for punts in a career! Guess that’s one advantage to playing your whole career for a shitty team. Hell, these other kickers, the ones on teams that actually have offenses, they might only get to punt four or five times in a game. Me, I’m pretty much guaranteed to be in double digits every Sunday. Silver lining to every cloud, right?!

MF: So all in all you’re okay with how your career has gone?

RM: I suppose you could say that. In kinda’ the same way that OJ or Sanders were okay with their careers. Playing your entire career for a crappy team can be a really irritating thing. Not to say, by the way, that I’m comparing myself to those guys. I guess the only thing more frustrating than being just an okay player like me and playing your entire career with a shitty team would be to be a fantastic player and have to put up with that. I mean I get that I’m not exactly Yepremian or someone like that. I mean not only was he the best damned kicker maybe ever, but he also had the smarts to get his ass out of Detroit the second he got the opportunity.

MF: And would you take a trade if it were offered?

RM: Well it would have to be to a better team than where I’m at now, which would mean basically any other team in the league. So yeah, I suppose I would.

MF: Ryan, thanks for your time, and best of luck chasing that total career punts record. Only three hundred and twelve left to go to catch Feagles.

RM: Thanks Marvin. At the rate we’re going, I ought to have it pretty much locked up by about the middle of next season.

Leave a Reply

* Required
** Your Email is never shared