What a busy week for Australians in the NFL, which featured injuries, honours and new opportunities.
Darren Bennett inducted into Chargers Hall of Fame
Big news earlier in the week as Aussie punting legend Darren Bennett was selected into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame. He was the first inductee after Junior Seau and the first ever voted by fans.
After over 10 years in the NFL -- the majority with the Chargers during which Bennett earned a place in the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 90s -- the award is well deserved.https://twitter.com/bengraham7/status/250412942284177409
As some may know, before coming to the NFL Bennett played Aussies Rules for the West Coast Eagles and my own Melbourne Demons, a career path that has since been emulated by current Aussie NFL players.
Bennett is undoubtedly the greatest ever Australian NFL player. His 159 games played alone should earn him the title, but his two-time All-Pro section and this newest honour cements it.
Ben Graham placed on injured reserve after calf injury
Aussie punter Ben Graham of the Detroit Lions suffered an injury to his calf during their 44-41 loss to the Tennessee Titans and has subsequently been placed on injured reserve, ruling him out for the rest of the regular season.
The injury came on one of the most spectacular plays of the game: the trick-play punt return lateral that saw Tennessee return man Tommie Campbell go all the way.
Here's a (terrible) clip of the return.http://youtu.be/AtehEioEuZk A better quality video can be found here (via NFL.com).
Graham has since been replaced by 34-year old punter Nick Harris, who had previously punted for the Lions before losing his job to Ryan Donahue in 2011.
The big return was Graham's only punt of the day, the ball travelling 38 yards before the fireworks began.
Mat McBriar Re-Signed by Eagles
The NFL giveth just as it taketh away with the Philadelphia Eagles re-signing Mat McBriar on Wednesday. McBriar, if you'll recall, lost his preseason battle with Chas Henry, but after three games it appears the Eagles have changed their mind by welcoming the veteran back.
This is obviously great news for McBriar who put on a strong camp and by many accounts was considered to be the favourite going into the regular season.
Chas Henry, who was subsequently cut by the Eagles, had a nice 48.3 yards gross average, but in reality had a 38.8 yard net average, suggesting (as this Philly.com article does) that his punts were too easy to return.
McBriar's first game will be the upcoming week 4 matchup against the rival New York Giants. Good television!
Sav Rocca Steadies The Ship
Sav Rocca had an uneventful day during the Washington Redskins' 38-31 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. The issues that led to two blocked punts in two weeks appear to be rectified for now and for the most part Rocca was unmolested when punting.
Rocca's numbers were solid on the day: 44.3 yard per punt average on seven punts, with the longest being 58 yards (huge) and pinning the Bengals inside the 20 twice.
Aussies in the NCAA
Jesse Williams has made his presence known in his return from the mild concussion that kept him out of week 2. He managed three shared tackles during the Tide's 52-0 dismantling of Arkansas and also earned three shared tackles during the their 40-7 win over Florida Atlantic.[caption id="attachment_18461" align="alignright" width="280"] via twitter @sethleeself[/caption]
It wasn't without some fun, however. During the match against Arkansas he actually lined up as a fullback, but when the play started he reportedly ran the wrong way. As funny as this situation was -- the opposition apparently keyed-in on the massive defensive linesman and he actually became something of a decoy -- it's always good to see an Aussie show some versatility.
The Crimson Tide have had a relatively soft schedule so far, but with sterner challenges in Ole Miss and LSU on the horizon the young Brisbane native will be busy.
Scott Harding of the Hawaii Warriors has had relatively quiet games against Nevada and Lamar as a receiver. But it's clear they intend to use him as a punter for the rest of the season. He punted eight times over the last two games and is averaged a respectable 43 yards.
I have kind of grown to love LSU's punter Brad Wing, not for his infamous trick play last year but because of his performance and moxy. In a recent interview he outlined his desires to win the Ray Guy Award, a National Championship and finally make the NFL.In case you're unaware, the Ray Guy award is given to college football's best punter. Ray Guy, the player, punted for Southern Mississippi before going All-Pro for the Raiders. Don't feel bad, I had to look it up as well. The way he's going there's no reason to think he hasn't got a shot. He was a semifinalist last year after averaging 44.4 yards per punt. Currently in the 2012 season he is averaging 45.4 yards.