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Bolts Have a Weapon in Mike Scifres

Posted Aug 22, 2014

The Chargers know they are lucky to have one of the top punters in the league.

Mike McCoy is a head coach in the truest sense of the word.  He is a man with the pulse on every aspect of the football team, but ask him about Mike Scifres and he’ll likely tell you the story about the first time he watched him punt at practice.

“He’s one of the best punters in the league,” the head coach said.  “His efficiency of what he’s done over the years his entire career, as a coaching staff, gives us confidence in what he can do.  Whether it’s a plus-50 punt or a backed up punt, we know he’s going to put our defense in a good situation.”

All it took was one booming punt for McCoy to realize he’d never have to worry again about watching his punter rehearse on the fields at Murphy Canyon.  And Scifres meanwhile attributes much of his or drive to succeed to the faith that his coach and teammates have in him.

 “It’s encouraging to know you have the belief of your coaches and guys in the locker room that you can do your job,” he said.  “It falls on you to do it, and you don’t want to put too much pressure on yourself, but it’s a lot easier to perform when you know that they trust in what you’re doing.”

Entering his 12th season, Scifres is the franchise’s all-time leader averaging 45.1 yards per punt, and is the NFL record holder for highest percentage of punts landed inside the opposition’s 20-yard line (40.9-percent).  He had another successful campaign in 2013, landing 30 of 56 punts inside the 20 to lead the league with a 53.6-percent average.  Remarkably, only one of his punts rolled into the end zone for a touchback. 

Even though he’s tied with Antonio Gates as the longest tenured Charger on the team, Scifres still gains a lot from preseason games.

“It’s the same as everybody else in that it helps with preparation for the season,” he said.  “It’s one thing to come out here on the practice field and get reps, but that live game action is different.  It’s getting that ball in the air and getting the nerves out because 12 years later I still get nervous going into a game.  So these games are to see where I’m at and what I can do better for the regular season opener.”

Each training camp the Chargers bring in a young punter to share the workload during practice and in games.  This year it’s Chase Tenpenny, whom Scifres has taken under his wing.

“It’s easy to tell him to relax and enjoy the moment, but as a young guy it’s hard to relax and get into the frame of mind,” he explained.  “But I try to get with him after every punt and remind him to do just that and relax.  Take a normal swing and don’t try to kill it.  Those are the same things I still fall into.  I still have moments when I go out in practice and try to kill the ball even though I know I don’t need to.  And I see that in him and I’m telling myself as I’m telling him to relax, take a breath, swing easy and let your ability take over.”

One major reason Scifres enjoys tutoring young punters is because of Darren Bennett and the invaluable education he received from him during his rookie year.

“I try to pass along that same knowledge because Darren took so much time with me,” he recalled.  “I was really fortunate because I came into camp as a rookie and no one knew what to expect.  Then we both made the team, and my eyes, my ears and my mind all opened up because I never had seen so much about the business.  We talked about everything, and that’s what I did with Chase.  We sat down the night before the Dallas game and went over every question he had.  We talked through it and I found myself saying a lot of the things to him that Darren said to me.  It’s crazy to think 12 years later those things still work, and I can’t say enough how much that year meant.  And as good a player as he was, he is a better person.  He taught me a lot, so that’s what I’m trying to do.”

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