Lions' Sam Martin taking different tack on punts
Houston — Detroit Lions punter Sam Martin is coming off the best season of his young career, averaging 44.2 net yards per punt. It was the second-best mark in NFL history, at least since the league began recording the stat 40 years ago.
The problem, Los Angeles Rams punter Johnny Hekker was statistically better in 2016, setting the new bar with a 46.0-yard net average.
Only one punter makes the Pro Bowl from each conference and Hekker got the nod in the NFC. Martin was at the game, supporting teammate Matt Prater from the stands and disappointed he wasn’t with him on the sidelines.
“It wasn’t something I was consciously thought about it, but I’m kind of watching Hekker and Kansas City’s (Dustin) Colquitt down there and part of me felt like I should be down there,” Martin said. “It’s nothing against those guys, just my competitive nature.”
Hekker, according to Martin, is revolutionizing the position. Martin is a traditional punter, booming long punts with impressive hang time, which allows his coverage to get down and make quick stops. Hekker is an Aussie style kicker, who relies on low kicks, both rolling and line drives that are difficult for return men to field and gain plenty of extra yardage on the bounce.
Martin incorporated a few of those types of kicks last season and, as he recalls, each of them rolled beyond 60 yards. It’s something he believes is going to be more common across the league.
“I think you’ll see more punters in the league doing that stuff to keep up with those kinds of numbers,” Martin said. “Hekker can hit a normal, good ball. And he’s developed those kind of trick kicks that can be an advantage in the yardage game. I think, really, if anything, the game is evolving.”
Martin talked to Hekker at the Pro Bowl and the two discussed working out together this offseason. The Lions punter admitted he’s open to adding more of Hekker’s style to his repertoire.
“I’ve gotten better each year and that’s what I’m going to keep trying to do,” Martin said.
Martin was at the Super Bowl promoting Short Par 4, a monthly subscription service for golf apparel. He said he plays around three rounds per week when the weather is nice during the offseason and maintains a handicap around 10. He said the best golfers on the team are quarterbacks Matthew Stafford and Dan Orlovsky.