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Musick: Podlesh patient on puntless night

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT
Caption
(Charles Rex Arbogast)
AP photo Bears kicker Robbie Gould (right) and holder Adam Podlesh watch the ball after Gould kicked an extra point Monday night against the Cowboys at Soldier Field. Podlesh, the Bears' punter, had no punts.

Here’s a brain game for you football fans.

What do you call a punter that doesn’t punt?

This is a question with no wrong answer. The more creative, the better.

“A punter that doesn’t punt?” said Bears tight end Martellus Bennett, agreeing to take part in the challenge. “I guess he would be a …”

Bennett fell silent, deep in thought.

Moments later, his face lit up with a smile.

“Kickstand!” Bennett said. “He’s a kickstand!

“Yeah, a kickstand just stands there, you know?”

Perfect.

Meet Adam Podlesh, the Bears’ new kickstand.

Previously, Podlesh had served as the Bears’ punter. He had booted 225 punts in 44 games with the Bears after notching 229 punts in 59 games with Jacksonville.

But on Monday against the Dallas Cowboys, the Bears did not need Podlesh to punt. Every possession on offense except the last led to long, sustained drives that ended with points.

Check out the Bears’ drive chart from the 45-28 win: Touchdown, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, field goal, touchdown, touchdown, field goal, end of game.

No punts.

Hey, at least Podlesh was able to serve as the holder for field goals and extra points.

“I have a text message from my dad,” Podlesh said as he dressed in front of his locker after the game. “He said, ‘Great holds out there. I’m sure your punts in warmups were great.’ ”

Well, were they?

“Yeah, actually,” Podlesh said with a shrug. “I had a pretty good day. Not that it counts, but yeah, I felt comfortable going out there.”

Games can be unpredictable, and punters never know how much or how little they might be needed. But the odds of a zero-punt performance

are miniscule – it had not happened to Podlesh since Sept. 19, 2010, with the Jaguars – so he and long snapper Patrick Mannelly stayed ready every time the offense took the field.

By the fourth quarter, Podlesh started to wonder whether he might post a goose egg.

“I didn’t want to jinx it,” Podlesh said. “But it seemed as though that was going on.”

Kind of like baseball players keeping quiet in the late innings of a no-hitter?

“I don’t know if it’s the same thing as pitching a no-hitter,” Podlesh said with a laugh.

OK. That explains why teammates did not mob Podlesh at the end of the game.

Was it the opposite, then?

Did teammates feel any trace of sympathy that Podlesh did not play a bigger role? Did any guilt accompany the fact that they played while Podlesh watched?

“[Heck] no, I don’t feel bad,” veteran special-teams ace Blake Costanzo said with a smile. “He got paid to chill, man.”

Technically, Podlesh got paid to freeze, but Costanzo had a good point.

The funny thing is that Podlesh could have been paid more if he had punted. As part of a complicated formula that is included in the NFL’s labor agreement, teams dole out performance-based pay after the end of the season based on players’ overall salaries and the number of plays during which they were on the field.

It’s tough to say exactly how much more of a bonus Podlesh might have received if he had punted Monday, but it would have been something more than zero.

Some players across the league have earned six-figure payments based on the player-performance system. Even if it’s four figures or five figures, it’s good money.

“It’s great money, to be exact,” said Eric Weems, another veteran special-teams contributor for the Bears. “It comes at the right time, when guys are in the offseason and no income is coming in.”

But in the NFL, wins are more precious than paychecks.

If teams are not punting, there’s a good chance that a win will follow.

“I’m cool with that,” Costanzo said. “It means our offense is balling.”

Or bawling.

“It’s either one of two things,” Weems said. “The offense is turning over the ball and we don’t punt, or the offense is moving the ball and scoring points. In this case, they were moving the ball and scoring points.”

A ton of points.

And if the Bears go the rest of the season without needing Podlesh to punt, he won’t complain a lick. He told his teammates as much after the game.

“I actually told Josh [McCown], ‘Hey, if we do that the next three weeks, that’s fine with me,’ ” Podlesh said. “As long as we get W’s.”

• Shaw Media sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at tmusick@shawmedia.com and on Twitter @tcmusick.

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