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Was block that broke Kevin Huber's jaw illegal?

Kevin Huber had been enjoying a successful season for the Cincinnati Bengals. On a weekly basis, he delivered the type of production that sends a punter to the Pro Bowl.

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That all changed after he kicked the ball to Antonio Brown on Sunday night.

The Steelers return man shot through a gap in coverage and burst toward midfield. Huber slid toward the ball carrier in that jittery way punters do. Enter Steelers linebacker Terence Garvin, who blindsided Huber with a crushing block. Seconds later, Brown was dancing in the end zone while Huber was splayed out on the turf. He remained there for three minutes.

"Oh boy," Cris Collinsworth remarked in a tone of genuine empathy as NBC replayed the destruction. "Head on a swivel there young Kevin Huber when that starts happening."

Huber was initially diagnosed with a "dental injury," though it was quite clear this was more than a loose filling. In truth, Huber's jaw was broken. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said after the 30-20 loss that the punter had to have his jaw wired shut.

NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday that tests also revealed a cracked vertebrae, though the team is confident that was a pre-existing condition.

The sequence serves as an obvious PSA for punters on every level of the sport, but it's also fair to wonder about the legality of the play. As Barry Petchesky of Deadspin pointed out (via FootballZebras.com), punters and kickers have special protections under the rule book and are considered in a defenseless posture at all times.

Garvin drove his helmet under Huber's facemask, which is considered prohibited contact against a defenseless player. Game officials should've thrown a flag and marked a 15-yard penalty from the spot of the foul, wiping out Brown's touchdown.

Not that it matters much to Huber now. His season his done and his health has been compromised. On balance, it was a very bad night.

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