Chargers Back to Punt Protection Basics

Team committed to immediate improvement

Antwan Applewhite remembers lying motionlessly on the field Sunday with his back to the retractable roof and his facemask parallel to the artificial turf of Houston's Reliant Stadium.

It wasn't injury that kept the Chargers outside linebacker down. It wasn't fatigue, either.

“It was just frustration,” Applewhite said. “(Frustration) that it had happened again.”

On Tuesday, the Chargers spent their first practice of the bye week revisiting the basics of punt protection. The team expects its continued focus in the area to eliminate a chain of events that is long past getting old. 

It starts with the sound of a double thump, the first coming from Mike Scifres' punt and the second from a defender's block. The Chargers have heard it five times this season, including on a first-quarter punt deflection against the Texans last weekend.

The ensuing series of sights usually includes a change in the scoreboard, a swing in momentum, a disappointed sideline of coaches and players, and then a line of questioning the next day in which media members inquire as to whether special teams coordinator Steve Crosby's job is in jeopardy.

On Monday, Turner defended Crosby as he's done every time before, only this time making a bold prediction.

“We’re going to fix the issues we have in the punting game,” Turner said. “We will not have another punt blocked for the rest of the season.”

If not for all the baggage that comes with a blocked punt, then for Scifres.

After Sunday's deflection, while sprawled on the field after making a shoe-string tackle, Applewhite turned his head to the left and saw the Chargers punter rolling on his back in pain.

Applewhite, a core special teams player, felt sick.

“I immediately felt for him,” Applewhite said. “I felt like we let him down as a person. It does bother us. It does get under our skin. Just like Norv said, we won't allow another punt block this year. ...We know our role, and trust me, it's going to improve.”

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