Bengals’ new punter has touch Lewis likes

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 9, 2003

CINCINNATI - A punter with a feathery touch is a defensive coordinator's best ally.

Kyle Richardson has the touch. Marvin Lewis has a new punter.

The first-year coach has made one noteworthy change during the Cincinnati Bengals' bye week, replacing struggling punter Nick Harris with a tried-and-proven alternative.

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Richardson was the Baltimore Ravens' punter in the 2000 season, when they won the Super Bowl by taking advantage of a record-setting defense aided by a record-setting punter.

Richardson set an NFL record by dropping 39 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line during the 1999 season. He followed it with 35 more kicks inside the 20 during the Super Bowl season.

Lewis liked the good field position.

''I remember being at a golf tournament after the Super Bowl, and he was referring to some other players like Bryan Barker that had some success at doing those kinds of things,'' Richardson said Wednesday. ''He had made mention that it really is a great thing and helps his defense in a lot of ways.

''I've always known that there is probably a good rapport there.''

Good enough to get him another chance in the NFL.

Richardson, 30, punted for Baltimore from 1998-2001, then moved to Minnesota as a free agent. He went to training camp with Philadelphia this year but was released on Aug. 24.

He had a tryout with the Bengals a few days later, but they decided to stick with Harris. The third-year veteran was last in the AFC in punting when he was replaced on Tuesday, averaging only 38.7 yards. Only two of his 28 punts were downed inside the 20.

With the team's bye week affording extra days to get Richardson acclimated, they made the change.

Richardson's biggest adjustment will be dusting off his skills as a holder for Shayne Graham on field goals and extra points. In Baltimore, he held for one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history.

''I helped Matt Stover get to the Pro Bowl,'' Richardson said. ''You can ask him. I think I've got a resume there for it.''

His reputation is so good that Graham isn't concerned at all.

''Since I got to the NFL, I've been switching between holders,'' said Graham, who was 7-of-8 on field goal attempts with Harris holding. ''But those guys have been around. They know what they're doing.

''I haven't even seen him hold, but I have not one doubt about his ability. He's been doing it for years, so I don't see any reason why it would be a problem.''

After he was released by the Eagles and failed to catch on with the Bengals, Richardson went home to Florida and kept in shape. He worked out on football and soccer fields with friends during the week, then faithfully showed up at some field every Sunday at 1 p.m. - NFL game time - and pretended he was still punting in the league.

He had unsuccessful tryouts with Miami and Tampa Bay in the last few weeks. He was headed for one with Detroit when the Bengals called on Monday, prompting him to change his travel plans.

He was back in the game.

''I've pretty much stayed away from football in a lot of ways and just worried about myself and waited for an opportunity like this,'' he said.