December 12, 2003
Don't "Hold" It Against Walter
BY: Kevin Rousseau
At first glance, you might look at the transactions that waived punter Brooks Barnard and re-signed Ken Walter and say "Okay, this time Belichick has really fallen off the deep end." But a deeper look at the special teams situation as we head towards the playoffs helps to easily explain this strange set of circumstances. Essentially, this transaction shows that Belichick believes that for the Patriots to win in January, Adam Vinatieri's accuracy is far more critical factor than the inconsistent punting that he might receive from Walter.
On the surface, Brooks Barnard did as well as the Patriots could have wished for from a rookie punter in his first NFL game against the Dolphins on Sunday. In terrible conditions, he punted ten times for an average of 36.5 yards. Unfortunately, for Barnard the season-ending knee injury to long snapper Lonie Paxton during the second half sealed his fate.
Heading into the game, backup quarterback Damon Huard took over the holding duties for field goals and extra points after Walter was released the week before. The normally-solid Vinatieri just barely made one field goal, missed another, and needed an extra point to bounce off both goal posts before going through the uprights. Once Paxton was injured and his season over, Vinatieri now faced creating a quick chemistry with not only a new holder but a new long snapper as well. No small feat regardless of what you may hear or want to believe.
The theory here is that Belichick and special teams coach Brad Seeley felt that one new invariable (a new long snapper in the form of Sean McDermott) was all they could afford if the Patriots were going to have any shot converting extra points and field goals consistently for the rest of the season. Hence, the sure-handed Walter is back in the picture. And Belichick, Seeley, and the rest of us hope that a week off did Walter some good and he returns to the form that made him such an asset during the Super Bowl year of 2001.
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Don't forget to check me out at 8:20 on Monday mornings on Bangor, Maine's sports radio leader, WZON 620 "The Zone." You can listen over the internet at www.zoneradio.com This column also appears in the Waterboro (ME) Reporter, the Maine Standard Times (Lewiston/Auburn, ME), the American Journal (Westbrook, ME) and the Lakes Region Suburban Weekly (Windham, ME).
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