Oct. 4, 2001
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) – By TOM CANAVAN AP Sports Writer
New York Giants punter Rodney Williams should throw away his book on punting written by Ray Guy and consider writing one of his own.
Williams has been nothing short of spectacular in his first three NFL games as a rookie. He’s averaging an NFC-best 49.4 yards with a league-best 43.5 yards net.
That net total is 2.6 yards better than his nearest competitor – Lee Johnson of New England – and better than the gross average of 18 of the league’s other 30 punters.
That’s not bad for someone who didn’t take up punting until high school and was released in training camp in his first two attempts to land a job in the NFL.
“I’m not really surprised,” said Williams, the fourth black punter in NFL history. “I am very excited. I have been focusing on this for a lot of years.”
No one has ever questioned Williams’ leg. In the Giants’ season opener at Denver, he had a team-record 90-yard punt that rolled through the end zone.
If there was a question about the former Georgia Tech punter, it was consistency. That hasn’t been a problem this year.
Sixteen of Williams’ 20 punts have been better than 41 yards, including 10 of 50 yards or better. Of the four shorter punts, Williams had three of less than 30 yards that were downed inside the opponent’s 20.
“Your entire job is consistency,” William said. “That’s a problem I had in the past, consistency. I have tried to pattern everything with being consistent.”
To accomplish that, Williams adjusted his life on and off the field. On the field, he shortened the steps he took when he punted. Off the field, he sought uniformity. He now tries to go to bed at the same time every night, wake up at the same time and work out at the same time.
It also hasn’t hurt that place-kicking guru Morten Andersen now has a locker a couple of feet away.
Andersen has talked with Williams and helped him develop new habits.
After every punt, Williams now drinks a cup of water and throws the cup away. It’s something he’s never done before. It’s also symbolic, whether it’s a good punt or a bad one.
“I put the kick in the cup, and I throw the cup away,” said Williams, who used to have a habit of walking off after every bad kick and trying to think about what went wrong. “It’s a way of saying it’s over and done with.”
Giants coach Jim Fassel says Williams has not only worked hard since coming to training camp, he’s getting better.
“He has great natural talent,” Fassel said. “We’ve all watched him punt the ball. Holy smokes. He can bang them.”
New Orleans Saints coach Jim Haslett said Williams’ punting might have been the difference in the Giants’ 21-13 win Sunday.
Williams averaged 46.5 yards on eight punts, and only one was returned.
“I don’t feel like I am out there proving anyone wrong who didn’t keep me,” said Williams, who was released by St. Louis and Washington, the Giants’ opponent Sunday. “I’m just proving the Giants right.”