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Colts' Pat McAfee: 'Defenseless' tag sets punters back

We all learned a little bit more about the NFL rule book this week thanks to Kevin Huber.

The Cincinnati Bengals punter was sent to injured reserve after being on the losing end of a vicious block by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Terence Garvin on Sunday night. The NFL later announced Garvin's hit should've been penalized because punters are considered "defenseless throughout the down."

It's a designation that doesn't sit well with some of the men who punt for a living.

"It kind of sets us back in the position," Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee said Thursday on "The Dan Patrick Show." "There's this perception that punters and kickers aren't athletes. ... There's a few of us trying to debunk that."

Seahawks punter Jon Ryan didn't even realize he had added protection on the field.

"Honestly, I wasn't even aware of that rule," Ryan told SI.com. "I always kind of thought that once you got down there (on a return), you were fair game."

Ryan doesn't consider himself "defenseless."

"Well, I don't think you should just punt the ball and walk off the field," he said. "You're still a football player. I'm not trying to say that it was a clean hit by any means, but once a punter goes down there, he's fair game."

Garvin was fined $25,000 for his block of Huber. The penalty certainly was warranted, but the hit and subsequent league reaction reinforced the stigma that punters aren't real football players. They can't win.

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