Pat McAfee: Label a setback

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Indianapolis Colts punter Pat McAfee says he considers a statement this week by the NFL's head of officials that punters are defenseless players throughout a play to be a setback for players at his position.

McAfee made his comments in a radio interview Thursday on "The Dan Patrick Show," expounding on thoughts on the topic he had previously shared with Yahoo! Sports.

"This defenseless thing, I don't really know what it means. It kind of sets us back a little bit as a position," McAfee said Thursday.

McAfee said punters understand the risks when they're on the field and he doesn't think he's ever been targeted by a player during a return.

Dean Blandino made his comment on NFL Network this week that punters are "defenseless throughout the down" in reference to the vicious hit by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Terence Garvin on Cincinnati Bengals punter  Kevin Huber during an Antonio Brown touchdown return on Sunday. Blandino said Garvin should have been penalized for the hit, from which Huber suffered a broken jaw and cracked vertebrae. No flag was thrown.

McAfee noted on Wednesday that Huber ventured into the "war zone," an area of 10 or 15 yards that most punters and kickers try to avoid.

"You either have to get in or get out," McAfee said. "I stay behind that area. He was right in the middle of it. I feel bad for him because he's a good friend of mine. I think if you ask him the same question, he would give you the same answer. He knows it's something that could happen, but knows he has to look out next time."

Garvin was fined $25,000 for the hit Wednesday, a source told ESPN.com's Scott Brown.

On Thursday, McAfee said Blandino's comments reinforce the stereotype "that punters and kickers aren't really athletes or football players" and Garvin deserved the fine because he used the crown of his helmet to hit Huber under his jaw, not just because Huber's a punter.

"There are a few of us who are trying to debunk that theory and try to make plays and kind of gain the respect of our teammates by making tackles," McAfee said in the interview.

McAfee has made three tackles this season, including a touchdown-saving stop on the Denver Broncos' Trindon Holliday during a return in Indianapolis' Oct. 20 win over Denver.

He said he understands the league trying to protect its players, but as far as designating punters defenseless, he doesn't "really comprehend it too well."

"I enjoy making plays for my teammates. That's a big part of [football]," he said, adding, "If I hit a bad punt and some guys don't make a tackle and I have to make a tackle for them, that's my opportunity to step up for my teammates."

ESPN.com Colts reporter Mike Wells contributed to this report.

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