By Earl Bennett
Special teams is a sector that often get overlooked. The returners get all the fame. They score the touchdown and they look fantastic without fans or the media acknowledging the hard work put in by the other 10 players. I enjoyed blocking and returning. I do have a touchdown return under my belt which helps me to understand how the returner gets the glory. Then, there is the other side of me that knows what it’s like to make that touchdown leading block.
The end rusher on punt returns were interesting. I had a quick get off, but for some reason was never able to place my hands on the ball correctly for a block. Other times the punt protector would shove me out of the way and I would be the “touchdown block.” I never understood this terminology until we were playing Seattle October 17, 2010 in Chicago.
Hey Earl, you are the rusher on punt return – were the words echoed by Dave Toub before the play started. I went to lineup and rush. I was pushed to the side by the punt protector and watched the play to see if Devin Hester could do something magical. As I watch things unfold, I whispered “Oh crap, he is about to score.” Then I looked to see Seattle punter Jon Ryan start to head towards Devin to cut him off. Then, I whispered “Oh snap, he does not see me.” As I inched closer, I remembered the NFL giving a safety rule on ways to blindside block. It was still legal in 2010. Ryan had no clue I was near. He was close enough to where I could aim and fire. I loaded up in my legs and lunged right into Ryan’s chest without using my helmet and torquing my body sideways to use shoulder pads only. I saw Ryan’s feet in the air and I knew that he was done.
This play you can’t be watched in slow motion – it would take away from the actual speed that Ryan was running and the collision. When the trainers came out on the field, I knew he was in a bad position. Any blindside block is detrimental. I looked to the sideline and saw Matt Forte jumping up and down going hysterical over the hit made. Everyone on the sideline was going insane. I was overwhelmed with joy. The “touchdown block” was now appreciated by me more than ever because I had a chance to experience it firsthand. I did not mean to injure Ryan, he was just in the way of Devin Hester’s “touchdown return.”