RENTON – It must be the hair.
Asked what’s been the driving force for Seattle Seahawks punter Jon Ryan’s productive season so far, long snapper Clint Gresham pointed to the long, ginger-colored locks – the kind that would make a heavy metal drummer proud – he shaved off just before the season started.
“Honestly the most important thing that he’s done differently this year is cut his hair,” deadpanned Gresham. “It’s kind of like the reverse Samson effect. And he’s just all power.”
Ryan, who turns 30 on Saturday, would like to believe there’s more to it than that. In his fourth season with Seattle, the Canadian – born in Regina, Saskatchewan – has combined a tireless work ethic with a good deal of talent to develop into one of the best punters in the league.
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Ryan’s 48.5 punting average is fourth in the NFL. Ryan also ranks fourth in the league with 19 punts downed inside the 20-yard line, and he has been a key cog in helping Seattle win the field-position battle on Sundays.
“I compare it a lot to a golf swing,” Ryan said. “Where sometimes your normal swing isn’t working you start trying to change some things. And the more you change them the worse it gets. You’ve got to trust what you already have. Trust what you’ve worked on. And if you have a bad day you don’t go change everything. You have to trust that swing.”
Special teams coach Brian Schneider said Ryan’s consistency has been the most important thing.
“He’s just continuing to mature,” Schneider said. “He’s a great work-ethic guy who takes his job seriously. He’ll do a lot of stuff to get himself ready, and I’ve seen that improve over last year.
“You see a lot of kickers and punters that take a lot of time to make it, and then when they make it they have it figured out because they’ve done a lot of things. And I think that’s the biggest thing – the way he mentally approaches it throughout the week prepares him for Sunday.”
Ryan, who is third in Pro Bowl voting for punters, would like to make the trek to Hawaii for the annual game. He was named as a Pro Bowl alternate in 2009.
“I think I’d probably be lying to you if I said I didn’t,” Ryan said about hoping to make the Pro Bowl. “It’s a personal goal of mine to play in the Pro Bowl. It’s something you can’t worry about because it’s something totally out of my control, the voting process. And all I can do on Sundays is go out there and do what I do.”
His other accomplishments testify to the fact that Ryan is a pretty good athlete.
He was a four-year starter at receiver in college at Regina, and his sure hands make him a natural to hold for placekicker Steven Hauschka.
He’s also fast, running the 40-yard dash in 4.4 seconds and bench pressing 350 pounds coming out of college, he said.
Ryan put his speed and strength on display earlier this season in chasing down Cincinnati punt returner Adam Jones and keeping him out of the end zone, although Jones pulled a hamstring on the play.
“It’s kind of evolved to the point where punters and kickers are athletes now,” Ryan said. “You don’t see that out-of-shape punter or kicker who just looks terrible out there.”
Ryan grew his hair out for two years to donate to Locks of Love, a program that uses donated hair to make wigs for young patients who lose their hair because of cancer treatments.
And this month, Ryan has been growing a ginger mustache for Movember, a fundraising campaign to raise awareness and money for prostate cancer.
Ryan lost his father to cancer five years ago.
As for the Thanksgiving holidays, Ryan said he didn’t have any big plans.
“Just hang out with a couple friends in town here,” he said. “The real Thanksgiving was five weeks ago. I had some of the guys over on the Canadian Thanksgiving (Oct. 10), and we had fun with that.”
RICE MISSES PRACTICE
Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice missed his second straight practice on Thursday with a knee issue, making his availability for Sunday uncertain.
However, coach Pete Carroll told reporters on Wednesday that he planned on resting his big-play receiver this week.
Rice has not missed a game since sitting out the first two this season with a shoulder injury. But he has been on the injury report the past two weeks with a foot, and now a knee issue.
If Rice cannot go, Golden Tate could be on track to get his first career start, although Ben Obomanu (ankle/knee), considered Rice’s backup, was a limited participant in practice Thursday.
Others who did not practice include defensive tackle Alan Branch (ankle) and cornerback Byron Maxwell (ankle). If Branch can’t go, Clinton McDonald would likely start at defensive tackle next to Brandon Mebane.
Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (pectoral), safety Atari Bigby (hamstring) and defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove (hamstring) were full participants at practice on Thursday.
The Seahawks announced that offensive tackle James Carpenter and John Moffitt both had successful knee surgeries Wednesday at Seattle Surgery Center, performed by team doctors Ed Khalfayan and Mike McAdam. Carpenter suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee last week. And Moffitt suffered a torn medial collateral ligament (MCL) and posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) in his right knee against Baltimore. Seattle, with a vacant roster spot after placing Carpenter on the injured reserve list, brought back offensive tackle Allen Barbre. The 27-year-old Missouri Southern State product has seven career starts, and was on the active roster with Seattle for three games last year. Barbre was with Miami for training camp and was released on Sept. 6. He was a fourth-round selection by Green Bay in the 2007 draft.
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks