Oh, those crazy punt returns

A.J. Green wants to return punts.  Let me say that again:  Georgia’s most electrifying player on offense thinks he can make a difference running back punts.  He’s not talking completely out of his ass about that either, having returned twelve punts for touchdowns in high school.

But there’s this thing that seems to get a lot of people hung up about him doing that.

Green said he wasn’t worried about risking injury.

“Nah,” he said. “It will just add another dimension to my game.”

To read the message boards, you’d think that returning punts was the most hazardous part of the game.  Hell, make that special teams in general – I read one comment from a person who still claims to be scarred by Boss Bailey blowing his knee out while covering a kickoff in the Georgia Southern game a decade ago.

Now I’ve got no idea if Green is Georgia’s best option here.  But I wouldn’t bet against it either.  And if he is a legitimate difference maker who should play, how credible is the injury concern?  I see two ways of looking at that.  If you see football as a violent, dangerous sport, then there’s a point to be made that increasing the number of times a player sees the field also increases the risk of injury.  But to simply argue that there’s a greater risk of injury simply fielding punts… well, I’d be curious to see the data on that.

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21 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

21 responses to “Oh, those crazy punt returns

  1. UFTimmy

    I don’t have any data but it is my understanding that returning kicks is the most injury prone position in football. There is a reason Percy Harvin is good enough to do it in the pros but he did not do it at Florida.

    Bubba Caldwell broke his leg against UTn in 2005, a year we already very short on playmakers.

    So to me, if he is your best, is the extra yard or two he’d get worth the risk of him being done for the season?

    • Timmy, I’m raising the issue because I honestly don’t know.

      Here’s last year’s list of leading punt returners. There are some pretty prominent players on it (e.g., #s 4 and 14). Also, nobody on that list averaged more than three returns per game. That’s not exactly a huge number. (Presumably in Georgia’s case, they wouldn’t be using Green on pooch kicks, so it would likely be less than the max anyway.)

      I’m not saying shove him in there simply because he’s AJ. But if he’s clearly the best option, I think you’ve got to play your best. You can’t live in fear of everybody getting hurt.

  2. ChicagoDawg

    What do we want to happen as much as possible each game? What situation greatly enhances UGA scoring opportunities? What circumstance holds the possibility of changing the tempo of the game — every time it occurs?

    A.J. Green with the ball in space.

    Why rob the team and A.J. of that opportunity? Get your best, most explosive, player the ball as much as possible and that typically ends well. This is a proven winning formula — especially in CFB where special teams often have non-starters and even walk-ons trying to cover the punt.

    A perfect example was Deion Sanders. He was clearly the best player on the field in College and the early part of his NFL career. Reggie Bush also comes to mind. If you have special players — use them as much as possible. A high performance sports car does no good to anybody parked in the garage looking pretty.

  3. On the one hand, I do worry about anything that would expose a player as important as AJ to a greater chance of injury. On the other hand, the only way to make sure he’s never exposed to injury is to never let him see the field at all. We’re already subjecting them to potential injury by playing the game at all; might as well at least give him a shot and see if he’s up to the task.

    • Chuck

      Hmmmm, so far he has been injured for part of both seasons he has been here, and that is without being part of special teams. I admire that Green isn’t worried about the injury risk, but he is a kid who thinks he is immortal. I don’t think he should be making the decision, and his statement isn’t a very good argument for your personal decision. The coaches see him in practice, and trying him out in practice probably can’t hurt, but I kind of doubt if his skill set is ideal for the position. His 12 TD runbacks in HS is impressive, but he was a man among boys there, and isn’t a great comparison. He has great hands and should be able to catch anything, and he has good speed. But he isn’t a burner in the same sense that some of these other guys are, and in particular, his first couple of steps aren’t nearly as quick as some of the littler guys, and that quickness is what has made good punt returners. Fun to talk about, but I vote let the coaches decide.

  4. 69Dawg

    Excuse me but all of the talk about how thin we are at WR gives me pause. There are a bunch of DB’s, lets let give these fast guys a shot. There’s Carton Thomas, let’s let him use his speed. If we were 5 deep at WR then ok but not this year.

    • Gob

      Exactly. Once we have another solid option at WR — King, Durham, Brown, Wooten, whoever — then we can use him at PR. Until then, though, he _is_ our passing attack, and we can’t risk becoming a one-dimensional team.

      That said, if King or Brown or multiple players step up (or if White and Charles establish themselves as every-down passing options) I say let him loose. He’s already proved how valuable he can be blocking kicks. Maybe he can make some plays returning them.

  5. Dboy

    GT had their star LB blow out knee returning kicks during their shared championship season, we had one of our star CBs blow out knee on kick return 3-4 yr ago, boss bailey, we had a return man have a nasty concussion Vs UH in sugar bowl. I’m not sure about the statistics senator but running full speed into a group of big fast men running at you full speed trying to hit you as hard as they can seems perilous. Like playing chicken in cars. I’m all for getting Green the ball in space but I think the risk of injuy is increased. He got injured just falling down w/o a big hit last year. Just not sure this is the best idea…

  6. dawg85

    AJ getting hurt does cause some concern but watching AJ run in space makes me think he could be a pretty unbelievable punt returner. I don’t know the stats on punt return injuries but I don’t recall too many. AJ does a good job of not letting people get a clean shot on him. He is probably in more danger going across the middle or when a quarterback hangs him out than he would be from returning punts. Football is a hazardous game. Almost every play involves some risk.

  7. HVL Dawg

    How many times has AJ made something special out of YAC? A couple of times but not enough to think he’s a great “give him the ball in space” guy.

    The true genius to AJ is that he catches the ball in traffic. Throw it near him and he catches it even when he’s covered. (check LSU TD for example)

    He’s not a punt returner. Thanks for the offer AJ. We love you. Keep doing what you do.

  8. Mayor of Dawgtown

    Brandon Boykin and Branden Smith should be returning kickoffs and punts. They are the fastest guys on the team.

  9. Carlton Thomas, Boykin, Smith: we have some options as to who returns punts & kickoffs. All can get the job done replacing Prince Miller. However, I would hesitate using them on pooch kits or directional kicks deep in our own territory.
    I agree with CMR that Logan is the best choice to make decisions as to how to field or let bounce those kinds of punts. I still see nothing but good things happening for all of our special teams.

  10. JC in Powder Springs

    If the choice is between AJ and Logan Gray, I’d say let’s go with AJ.

  11. Hoshney

    It is a terrible idea that will see teams out to LEVEL Green when he is fair-catching it or faking a catch

    I can just see UF or UT cheap-shotting Green when he is trying to catch it.

    No thanks

    Our Special Teams has enough issues that I say we let someone else do it until we have our Special Teams down pat and have enough protection for the returner

  12. The Realist

    Screw the return. Let’s just block it.

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