ALAMEDA – Punter Johnny Townsend moved across the country for a new job, yet felt completely comfortable.
Kicker Eddy Piñeiro helped with that. The roommates and good friends at the University of Florida were both acquired by the Raiders, and seemed set to hold those positions for the Silver and Black.
Working together was second nature – Townsend’s also the holder – and the pairing certainly helped ease the transition to pro football. Townsend won’t have that on the field anymore. Piñeiro was placed on injured reserve before final cuts, meaning he’s done for the year. Then long snapper Andrew Paola was lost for the year after tearing an ACL on Monday.
Townsend is the lone specialist filling an expected role.
“I felt extremely comfortable when I got here because there was a familiar face in the kicking role with Eddy Piñeiro,” Townsend said on this week’s epispde of The Raiders Insider Podcast. “We developed a strong relationship with the long snapper and had a really clean, smooth operation. It’s never fun when you have to deal with injuries like this.
“Andrew DePaola is an incredible long snapper and showed me the ropes from the moment I got here. …We’re going to go out this week in practice and find a good rhythm with (new long snapper Trent Sieg) and our kicker.”
Townsend must establish and maintain stability on the punt team, and build off a solid showing in the regular-season opener.
His next opportunity comes Sunday at Denver, Townsend’s first game at extreme altitude. Thin air will give his punts a lift in a game that will draw comparisons between him and Marquette King, who was released this offseason and ended up in Denver.
Townsend is known as an excellent directional punter – his raw power has been questioned some, though he launched a deep one from near his own goal post Monday – a skill mastered over time with technique and attention to detail.
“It’s very technical,” Townsend said. “The difference between hitting a far, high punt and hitting one short is the matter of a quarter-, half-and-inch. Our operation from the snap to the time it’s kicked has to be 1.95 seconds or less. Everything happens so fast, with such a specific task you have to accomplish, it can be tough sometimes.”
The Raiders have faith Townsend can be a solid, long-term answer at punter. They’ve had a few in Marquette King, Shane Lechler and Hall-of-Famer Ray Guy. There’s a proud tradition at that spot, and Townsend hopes to join the ranks among the best and steadiest in franchise history.
“It can be tough because the spotlight’s on you,” Townsend said. “We’ve had so many tremendous punters come through this organization, so I’m going to try and fill the shoes as best I can and play at the best of my ability to help this team win.”