Shades of Steve O'Neal and Ben Graham.
The Jets held their fourth practice of training camp this afternoon, and their first special-teams-only session at Cortland Stadium. And punter Reggie Hodges took full advantage of a fair tailwind and a favorable bounce to unleash a 95-yard punt.
With the line of scrimmage at his 2 and kicking from in front of the end line, Hodges launched a rocket. The ball went 70 yards in the air, and because of a great angle, Jim Leonhard couldn't field it before the ball hit and skipped on toward the opposite goal line, where Leon Washington, fielding punts along with Leonhard, scooped it up at the 3.
This of course was the same modus operandi for O'Neal when he rocketed his still-NFL-record 98-yard punt at Mile High Stadium in 1969. And Graham did likewise for an 86-yard punt at last year's Green & White Game at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.
Hodges was kicking against punt-rush pressure, but needless to say, these weren't game conditions. But you'd have to say Hodges won this particular practice over T.J. Conley, yet not because Conley had a bad day. In fact, the Idaho rookie hit a 68-yarder and a pair of 59-yarders, all with very good hang time.
But Hodges had an impressive run when the punt team began snapping from its own 20. He opened with a pair of 5.0-plus hang times, then thumped 61- and 58-yarders, followed by his 95-yard monster. And he finished with a plus-territory punt that was downed at the 2.
Washington had an interesting interlude where he muffed two punts in a short span. The fans in attendance didn't react to the first muff, but the second (also on a Hodges punt) raised a groan from the stands. On the next return, Leon fielded the ball cleanly and, with no one covering on the play, immediately spun around and backpedaled up the field a few yards. The fans applauded. All in good fun, and as we all know, head coach Rex Ryan likes a little fun at his practices.
About half the Jets roster participated in this under-an-hour workout while the rest of the team hit the weights and got in some maintenance running. Included in the ST group was Danny Woodhead, who was held out of the morning practice after Ryan said he took a blow to the head.
But Woodhead, rather than sporting his usual white No. 22 jersey, wore a red No. 8. Red usually is for quarterbacks and always signifies "Do Not Hit." Indeed, Woodhead did run in the drills but was not hit.
Sunday, it's back to a full two-a-day schedule, with practices scheduled to start at 8:15 a.m. and 4 p.m. Ryan raised the hope that the Jets might work on the field that is currently being resodded, on the other side of the stadium's main bleachers.