With five practices left until roster cut-down day, Brayden Coombs has an incredibly tough decision to make.
Coombs, the Detroit Lions’ first-year special teams coordinator, said there’s so little separation between Jack Fox and Arryn Siposs for the punting job he’s joked with both that one of them should “go out and really crack under pressure one day and make this easy for me.”
“But they haven’t,” Coombs said. “They’ve battled. They both — no matter what situation we’ve put them in, no matter how much pressure we’ve tried to create, whether situationally or with guys right in their face rushing, everything we’ve thrown at them so far, they’ve both handled it really well.”
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Fox and Siposs are neophytes when it comes to punting in the NFL.
Fox spent a few weeks on the Lions practice squad, but has never kicked in a regular-season game. Siposs signed this spring as an undrafted free agent after previously playing professionally in Australian Rules Football.
Coombs said he evaluates punters in six categories, and Fox and Siposs are running “almost neck and neck” in four.
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“I mean, like almost shockingly similar,” Coombs said. “And then of the other two, it’s kind of split in terms of who’s got the edge. So it’s really neck and neck and obviously we’re getting to a point here where we’re going to have to make a decision and they’re going to make it really hard on us, so we’ll put our heads together and when we have to, we’ll decide. But as of now, we’ve still got another week here for one of those guys to really, maybe, have an opportunity to separate themselves.”
Fox and Siposs have split reps punting, holding and kicking off about equally. If neither pulls away this week, it’s possible the Lions keep the loser of the battle on their expanded 16-player practice squad.
“I take a lot of comfort in the fact that whichever way it goes, however hard the decision is, we’re going to be going into Week 1 with a punter that we feel really good about, that we have high expectations for as an NFL football player,” Coombs said. “So, I’m encouraged by both and I’m excited about it. Hopefully in a week or so you guys will find out where we’re at.”
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Coombs wore an “I Can’t Breathe” facemask to his video conference Sunday, and got choked up a couple of times explaining the origins of the mask and how he dealt with an emotional week.
The Lions canceled practice Tuesday at their players’ behest and spent the day demonstrating against police brutality and the Jacob Blake shooting.
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“I think (it’s) just really appropriate with where we’ve been at over the last week,” Coombs said of the mask. “And just kind of wanted to — I don’t know, kind of show, I guess, a sign of just solidarity with our players, with everybody here, make sure there’s really no question in terms of which side of history I’m going to be on.”
Contact Dave Birkett at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @davebirkett.