On September 3, NFL punter Brad Maynard received notice that was one of the select few who would not be a part of the Houston Texans’ requisite 53-man roster. A bit of a shock, this news, as Maynard had nary a competitor in training camp and he was actually an additional named added to the released list as Gary Kubiak’s squad would only roster 52 men for the time being.
Shocked and in search for some support, Maynard did what many of us in a similar situation would do – he sought solace in a close friend, one who had been there for many years. That friend is one Richmond McGee.
The two men had spent quality time in Chicago earlier this winter when Maynard was the aging fan favorite (even down to the punchline hip surgery) and McGee was the younger, stronger leg – an heir apparent, assuming those exist within the world of NFL punters. Fast forward to fall of the same calendar year and McGee was still getting settled into his home in Cleveland, Ohio, making the trip with his wife and 11-month-old child despite only being on a one-year contract with the bereft Browns. Like Maynard, McGee went through his respective camp as the only punter, brought in to town after Reggie Hodges would go down with a torn Achilles tendon a few days earlier. McGee would step in and be among the NFL’s top 10 in preseason punting, averaging 43.2 yards per punt and placing five attempts inside of the 20-yard line.
While preparing to put his preseason opportunity to good use within the regular slate of games, McGee, during pregame warm-ups, planted his off-leg and felt immediate pain. The result was a herniated disc between his L5 and S1 – the key shock absorbers within the back, but also those that are the most fragile and susceptible to protrusion. While said pain was (and likely still is) severe, sources close to McGee tell WFNY that the freak, non-contact accident has every prospect of resolving without surgery and the player is expected to make a complete recovery. In the meantime, McGee will be placed on the team’s injured reserve list where he will miss the remainder of the 2011 season while still being able to collect his weekly compensation.
“His mental and physical toughness are to be admired,” the source says. “The sad irony is that his replacement is Brad Maynard, a close friend of many years. What a difference two days make.”
Two days indeed as it was a mere two days ago when I vilified McGee for his woeful performance, one which played an integral role in the 27-17 opening day loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. I opined that McGee “broke” multiple make-or-break opportunities; he opted to “provide souvenirs for fans lucky enough to lock down sideline seats” rather than allowing his defensive counterparts enough leeway for higher success rates. Not knowing the full story, at least not the portion that had recently been divulged, I threw stones. And while the intent of timing and transparency of truth can be questioned, the passion and willingness of those close to McGee to come forward and support the otherwise journeyman punter speaks volumes for the person he is.
Sure, McGee (as well as the recently acquired Maynard) may very well just be a punter. But he’s also a person. One who is thought very highly of, and one who I didn’t fully consider when penning a reactionary post following an unfortunate and emotional loss.
With WFNY not being credentialed with the Browns for the regular season, I did not get the chance to speak with McGee personally to gauge body language – this would have been crucial given the player’s preference to not make excuses in his postgame meeting with media members.
Head coach Pat Shurmur would not mention anything about an injury, one which he may or may not even known about given the precarious position of a player who was looking to make an impact with the team willing to give him a chance, an opportunity to earn a living doing what he had likely dreamed about through the bulk of the preceding 27 years. Even if there was knowledge of the situation, there are laws that prohibit one from discussing the health of another without consent.
I was unable to hear, at that very time, that Phil Dawson – one of the Browns’ team captains for yet another season – thinks very highly of Richmond as a person, a punter and as an NFL-caliber holder during field goals.
In the preseason, we were able to provide thoughtful, detailed information to our readers thanks to the ability to be on campus. Turn that spigot of enlightenment off and I regretfully reverted to the least common denominator of unfounded opinion, fueled by impulse rather than research. Without malice, but also without excuse.
Thankfully, through the community fostered within the confines of this very website, I’ve been able to become privy to the McGee-Maynard back-story, one that is very pertinent to the two men despite their position not exactly being grouped in with those deemed “skill.” A little over one week after consoling his friend during a time of need, McGee is now congratulating Maynard for getting another opportunity within the NFL despite said opportunity being at the expense of his ability to walk pain-free. During the 2011 preseason, Maynard – known more for his ability to guide directional kicks, especially those in windy conditions - only had half to the attempts of his friend and now teammate, but still managed to pin six punts inside of the opposing team’s 20-yard line. Now, Browns fans – and the coaching staff alike – have to hope that Maynard can step right in and do what Hodges did when he replaced an injured Dave Zastudil a little over a year earlier.
Perhaps he can even toss in a 70-yard fake punt for good measure.