First it was a groin pull, where eventually the muscle pulled away from the bone.
Then it was a sports hernia.
Finally, there was damage to his pelvis.
Physical problems No. 1 and 2 required surgery. All three meant a great deal of rehab that started in January.
Through those injuries last year, Dustin Colquitt kept punting. He missed two games when the groin pull became too much to bear. But he came back and kicked the rest of the season. In that time, he couldn’t practice during the week and he had problems running. Every day was an adventure in pain, treatment and patience.
Years from now, fans will look at Colquitt’s numbers for the 2008 season – a -yard gross average and a -yard net average – and think it was an ordinary to good year for the punter out of Tennessee.
Those numbers can in no way explain the physical, mental and emotional pain that Colquitt endured during what proved to be a long, long season.
“It was a tough year,” Colquitt said. “I read and heard some things where people said I had lost it, or wasn’t having a good year, that it was time for the Chiefs to find another punter, stuff like that … if people only knew.”
There are some fans who think being mysterious about injuries is something new to the Chiefs under the direction of GM Scott Pioli. Not so. Last year under Herm Edwards players were told specifically not to talk about their injuries. Sometimes they slipped and revealed too much to the media. They ended up hearing about it from the coaching staff and one player said he was fined for giving away information on his health.
Attempts to keep an opponent from knowing there might be a physical problem is understandable. But it leaves a player hanging when he struggles through a season and the fans and media do not know why he has problems.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Colquitt. “In light of everything that happened to me physically, I thought it was a good year. But nobody knows that.”
Todd Haley did. Back in February at the NFL Combine the Chiefs head coach was asked what he had learned about his team in the few weeks he’d been on the job. Haley mentioned that the Chiefs had a good punter and that was about all he had found in looking at the tapes from the 2-14 season.
“It was a compliment, especially after a season where I struggled mentally so badly, trying to get over the hump with the injuries,” said Colquitt. “To say that after I was going through so much pain, it was good. I still had a good year. My swing the last eight games of the season, you could tell it wasn’t the same. It was just that I couldn’t kick much during the week.”
So how does a punter get hurt? In Colquitt’s case it wasn’t from kicking. It was from holding. Go back to the ’08 off-season and the Chiefs were trying to find a kicker. They were auditioning three for several months: Billy Cundiff, Nick Novak and rookie Connor Barth. Along the way other kickers came to town to workout, guys like Mike Vanderjagt and Jay Feely.
It was Colquitt who held for all of those kickers, working out of a crouched position for hours.
“I was holding three days a week, 70 some kicks every day for those three days and I started experiencing some weird feelings in my groin,” said Colquitt. “I didn’t think it was serious and once we settled on Nick at the start of the year, it didn’t hurt as much.
“At the Carolina game I came back out at halftime and I had that firecracker feeling going on in that area. I didn’t know what it was.”
That firecracker feeling was the sports hernia. Then in the second half against the Panthers, Colquitt got off a good punt. That’s when his groin muscle pulled away from the bone. That was followed by problems with his pelvic region.
“Everybody thought it was just a groin injury, but it was pelvic floor damage and the sports hernia too,” Colquitt said. “I couldn’t run at all. Getting out of a chair was tough.”
Colquitt kicked the next week against Tennessee, but then missed two games as Steve Weatherford stepped in for him. But Colquitt came back and kicked in the final eight games of the season. His numbers from the first five games and the last nine reveal the difference in his production:
- First six games: 37 punts for 1,772 yards, a gross average of 47.9 yards and a net average of 40.3 yards.
- Last eight games: 33 punts for 1,338 yards, a gross average of 40.6 and a net average of 36.2 yards.
A cold weather punter’s numbers will always go down late in the season because of weather conditions and kicking outside.
“I started very strong and things were going pretty good,” Colquitt said. “I put five out inside the 20 against the Raiders and had a 73-yard kick. Against Tennessee, even with my leg on fire, I had a 66-yard punt and we had a team net of over 41 yards (41.6). We had a 45-yard net against Atlanta.
“I got hurt and so did a lot of other guys. Everything got turned upside down during the season.”
That it did and the overall poor production from the kicking game was one of the factors that led to a 2-14 record and ultimately all the changes that came down after the season. That includes Haley as head coach and Steve Hoffman handling the special teams.
“Hoff has got a very dynamic way, specific way of going about punting and kicking,” Colquitt said. “He understands things from the view of the kicker and punter, from our perspective. Before it was cover this, gunners got to do this, we were just expected to make a good kick. He makes everything relevant to where the ball is. He brings a different perspective.”
This isn’t the first time Hoffman and Colquitt worked together. When the Chiefs drafted him in the third round back in 2005, they brought a then out of the NFL Hoffman to Kansas City to work with their new punter.
“He came in here and worked with me for two or three days,” Colquitt said. “They thought there were some kinks they thought I could improve on and it really helped me to see that other perspective. It’s nice to have somebody who can see our end.
“Hoff can hear the ball and not see me and know it’s a bad punt. He can see through the mechanics. You are a squirrel there, you are chasing after a nut there. They know the body types. It could be something like your wrist, where your wrist wasn’t fully flexed.
“I’m like wrist? How could it be my wrist? But if you think about it, it affects your drop of the ball.”
Right now, the best thing for Colquitt as he prepares for the 2009 season is that he’s healthy. The groin is fine. The sports hernia was taken care of with surgery and his pelvis is back to normal. He’s free and clear to bomb all those hard to handle punts that he wants.
“Going through last season was tough, but I learned a few things,” said Colquitt. “I’m proud of what I got done under difficult circumstances, but I look forward to kicking this year without pain and being even more effective.”
SIGNINGS & MOVEMENT AROUND THE LEAGUE
LIONS – acquired WR Dennis Northcutt from Jaguars for S Gerald Alexander.
PACKERS – signed fourth-round draft choices RB Mike Goodson and FB Tony Fiametta.
TITANS – signed sixth-round draft choice WR Dominique Edison.
SAY HAPPY BIRTHDAY …
Born on June 27, 1940 in Gary, Indiana was G Denny Biodrowski. He spent five seasons with the Chiefs (1963-67), appearing in 30 games over his career.
Born on June 28, 1964 in Jacksonville was P Bryan Barker. He played four seasons with the Chiefs (1990-93), appearing in 60 games during those four seasons. Barker kicked 272 times for 11,267 yards, a 41.4-yard average.
Born on June 28, 1964 in Greensboro, North Carolina was LB Dino Hackett
(left). Selected in the second-round of the 1986 NFL Draft out of Appalachian State, he spent six seasons with the Chiefs (1986-91). Hackett played in 85 games, with 81 starts with 625 career tackles.