Who is/was the toughest punt returner you’ve faced?
Brandon Fields: “There’s been a few but off the top of my head I’d say Wes Welker, Julian Edelman and of course Devin Hester. He brings a unique excitement for the other team and a unique strategy to play against him because he’s very explosive. Every time he gets the ball he can make a big play so that’s one of the main focuses going into that game is how to check and balance. I’ve actually tackled Hester twice. One of them was my own fault. I gave him one of those home run kicks so I had to go down there and make a tackle. My problem is catching him. I can’t catch him but if I do I can bring him down.”
Larry Seiple: “Without a doubt it was Billy ‘White Shoes’ Johnson and why was very obvious. He was very fast and very elusive. He took a lot of chances and he made a lot of big plays in his time.”
What strategy do/did you use against dangerous returners?
Fields: “I’d say a little bit of everything. One of the things is you want to keep them on their toes. You don’t want them to know exactly what you’re doing, so depending on the conditions sometimes I’ll try to kick it out of bounds, other times kick it high and short or just try to play keep away and make them run around back there not knowing what’s coming next.”
Seiple: “It actually forced me to try to kick away from him as much as I could, which didn’t make that much sense because he was fast enough to get over there anyway.”
Which punter did you look up to growing up and why?
Fields: “Definitely (Hall-of-Famer) Ray Guy because that’s somebody I’ve always looked up to. He’s one of the all-time greats as far as punters go so that’s somebody that I’ve kind of watched and actually got to work with. He still has it today.”
Seiple: “I’m going way, way back with this one but (Hall-of-Famer) Yale Larry and it was the fact that he did a lot of different things (punting, kick returning and safety). He was very good at punting and I just remember watching him and I admired how he played the game and punter.”
What are the most important attributes for a punter?
Fields: “You have to have a strong leg and both kicking and punting are more mental than anything. So you have to be mentally strong and you sort of need to be forgetful in case you do have a bad one so you can learn from it, put it aside and then go out there and fix it the next time.”
Seiple: “I think in addition to having a strong leg you need to have height and leverage, consistency of dropping the ball in deep and following through. There are a lot of things that go into it but basically it’s just a matter of leverage and leg strength. If you get one blocked you bounce back and do your own job and not worry about the blocks because the blocks are really two parts. It’s part of the team in front of you blocking and it’s also the speed or slowness with which you are punting the ball, so if you know you’re getting things blocked then you better speed it up a little bit.”
What is/was your best asset as a punter?
Fields: “I’d probably say my strong leg and ability to flip the field whenever I go out there.”
Seiple: “I’d probably say direction. I didn’t kick the ball very far but I had fairly good hang time. I thought I could direct the ball as good as anybody. Now there were a few times when the ball went off the side of my foot and I ended up with a 3-yard punt and Coach Shula wasn’t happy about that but you live through those days. Those things are going to happen but I’d say direction and hang time were the two things.”
What was your most memorable game?
Fields: “There have been a couple but probably the one that sticks out the most is against the New York Jets a couple of years ago up there at the old Meadowlands (a 10-6 victory when Fields averaged a gross of 56.4 yards on 10 punts with four over 60 yards on December 12th, 2010). It’s not an easy place to kick. Our defense was playing great, our offense was struggling a little bit so our special teams had to step it up and kind of fill that gap to keep us in the game. Our punt team just needed to keep them pinned deep and our defense was able to stop them and not give them any ground so we were able to keep them out of our end zone.”
Seiple: “My most memorable game was of course the 1972 AFC Championship game against Pittsburgh, which is my only claim to fame. I took off and ran (37 yards) from the punt formation and got down to about the 7 or 8-yardline. We scored a touchdown, ended up winning the game (21-17) and ended up going to the Super Bowl, so it was a run and not a punt that stood out in my career.”