Seahawks punter Ryan coy about Hester
By Jim Moore Special to the Sun-Times January 13, 2011 9:55PM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
SEATTLE — The last time Jon Ryan punted in Chicago, on Oct. 17, the ball went straight to Devin Hester, who returned it for a late 89-yard touchdown that gave the Bears a flicker of hope in a 23-20 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Ryan was flattened by a vicious but clean block by Earl Bennett on the return and needed to be helped from the field.
‘‘Will I be trying to get hit like that again?’’ Ryan said. ‘‘Not really.’’
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has made conflicting comments on the game plan, telling some reporters that Ryan will punt to Hester and telling others that he won’t.
Said Ryan: ‘‘We’re trying to limit the amount of field he has to work with. I can’t hit line drives down the middle of the field and expect good results. We’ve got a good coverage team, but they need help from me. We’ll try to pin him outside the numbers.’’
Asked why he should even risk punting to Hester, Ryan said it’s tougher to kick a ball, with distance, out of bounds.
‘‘It’ll be 20 degrees, and you’ve got a frozen ball,’’ Ryan said. ‘‘You could aim out of bounds and have it go 20 yards. There’s a smaller margin of error. In cold weather, the sweet spot gets smaller. The ball doesn’t compress as well as it does in 70-degree weather. You’ve got to hit the ball dead on to get it to go. But I’m not saying I’m not going to kick the ball out of bounds at all.’’
Like Robbie Gould, the Seahawks’ Olindo Mare went 25-for-30 on field-goal attempts this season. Mare is one of the NFL’s best at touchbacks on kickoffs, but he knows he won’t be able to kick it to the end zone in sub-freezing conditions. That means Hester and Danieal Manning will get their opportunities Sunday.
‘‘When it’s cold, the ball just doesn’t travel as far and as high,’’ said Mare, who believes he still will have range to 45 or even 50 yards on field goals if there’s no wind.
Asked about the turf conditions at Soldier Field, Mare said: ‘‘You’re talking about things you can’t control. If the field’s not perfect, you still have to kick. I’m not going to approach the game any differently than I would anywhere else.’’
Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane missed the October game in Chicago because of a strained calf but should be his run-stuffing healthy self Sunday. Asked if he thought he would make a difference in the Seahawks’ efforts to limit Matt Forte, Mebane joked: ‘‘Me? I’m not going to make a difference. I’m nobody, man. They’re looking at me like, ‘Who’s that dude?’ ’’
Along with trying to stop Forte, the Seahawks hope to duplicate their six sacks of Jay Cutler.
‘‘I’ll shake his hand before the game and congratulate him for winning the division,’’ Mebane said. ‘‘That’s about it — that’s the plan.’’
‘‘Well, I’m going to talk to him during the game,’’ Mebane said, an assertion that he and his teammates will be in the Bears’ backfield as much as possible. ‘‘I’ve never talked to him before. I’ll have a nice little conversation with him.’’