Even when given boot, Richardson lands on feet

Punter's path to Ravens has had share of bumps

August 10, 1999|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

There was a time, before his NFL career, when Ravens punter Kyle Richardson dabbled in the same business as those who stick tape recorders in front of his face after practice.

It took him all of two months to realize that business was not for him.

Yes, Richardson worked for a newspaper, not as a reporter but in the circulation department as the district manager. It was a cushy enough job -- Richardson, right out of college, was in charge of a 25-person staff.

It just wasn't what he wanted to do with his life, especially after a record-setting career punting at Arkansas State.

So Richardson got in contact with Ray Perkins, a former NFL coach he met while at Arkansas State. Perkins told him he had the ability to be an NFL punter and encouraged him to sign with a team.

"He's been there [in the NFL]," Richardson said. "So that is what really got it in my head that this is what I should do. I can say that he probably pushed me in the direction and made me go for it."

So Richardson shopped around for a year, trying to get an opportunity, until he hooked up with the Miami Dolphins. It was the continuation of what was literally a recurring theme in Richardson's life, having to make his own opportunities.

He played football at his high school in Farmington, Mo., where he was All-Conference and All-Region as a receiver, defensive back and punter. But Richardson wasn't offered a college scholarship.

He was a walk-on at Arkansas State and set records for the most punting yards in school history (10,917) and most punts (274). He finished third all-time in school history with a 39.8 average in four seasons.

But Richardson wasn't offered a contract by any NFL teams.

He played in the World League in 1996, finishing second in the league with a 44.2 average.

When he finally did make it to the NFL, he was cut twice, the first after just five days by the Dolphins in 1997. He finished the season with the Seattle Seahawks.

"Things didn't go like I wanted it," Richardson said. "Things have never gone perfectly like I wanted it. I wanted a scholarship out of high school. I wanted to be drafted after college. Things just didn't go. That is just the way I am. I've been able to get through times where things don't look so good. I've been able to survive."

That attitude brought him to Baltimore as a free agent in 1998, where he beat out incumbent Greg Montgomery. Richardson finished fourth in the NFL with a 38.3 net average in what was his first full season.

Special teams coach Russ Purnell said Richardson is one of the top young punters in the league. As for what is needed to take Richardson to Pro Bowl level, Purnell points to consistency.

That's being worked on this camp, more so than a battle for his job. There is another punter, Paul McCord, in camp, but things are looking promising for Richardson.


"We're looking to get a consistent level of performance," Purnell said. "He'll have three good punts, then two bad ones. Two good ones, then one bad one. So we want to make sure that the punts that aren't to our standards, are not far below."

He'll have a new weapon this season with the signing of free-agent long snapper Frank Wainright. Wainright and Richardson worked together in Miami, sparking a rapport the two think will carry over to Baltimore.

"You get different punters that like the snaps in different areas," Wainright said. "For me, we work together well. I don't throw the ball back there 100 miles per hour. I think the action is more important. He knows that ball is going to be at the same place every time. We're kind of on the same page because he likes it the way I snap it."

Consistency aside, Richardson has the other half of his duty as punter, being the last line of defense, worked out.

His athletic ability -- Richardson also was all-conference in basketball and track in high school -- makes him a threat to speedy return men who think they can barrel over the punter on the way to the end zone.

"He's very athletic," Purnell said. "Not only can he make a tackle, but he can run the football or throw the football if he needed to do that as well. It takes a good athlete to be a punter."

Back when he was in Seattle, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Richardson got such a good lick on a return man that it caused a fumble. As to whether he can duplicate that performance here, Richardson hopes it won't have to come to that because of his hang time or teammates in front.

But if it does?

"I know they'll come right at me," Richardson said. "That's fine. I'll just catch them off guard. I'll catch them by surprise and drill them if I can. That's the way I'll do it."

Ravens camp

When: Through Aug. 26

Where: Western Maryland College, Westminster Directions from Baltimore: Take Interstate 695 to Exit 19 to I-795 north to its end. Follow signs to Westminster via Route 140 west to Route 31 south. At blinking yellow light, turn left (Route 31). At first traffic light, turn left on Main Street. Proceed up the hill. The parking entrance is on the left.

Information: 410-261-FANS Pub Date: 8/10/99

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