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Ram's former punter is back just for kicks

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  • Ram's former punter is back just for kicks

    By Kathleen Nelson

    Sean Landeta has been gone only a year, but he has too much catching up to do.

    The Rams' former punter said he hoped to see some of his non-football friends when he returns to St. Louis with the Philadelphia Eagles for their game with the Rams on Sunday.

    "These guys I've known since '95," said Landeta who lived in St. Louis for a pair of two-year stints with the Rams. "They made my stay so great. They really made you feel welcome."

    He mentioned Gus Torregrossa of Gus' Fashion and Shoes and restaurateurs Charlie Gitto, Charlie Fazio of the Joe Fazio Bakery, Mark Cusumano of Kemoll's and Tony Catarinicchi from Gian-Tony's. Even for a bon vivant like Landeta, that's a lot of food and shopping in 24 hours, especially when he has to squeeze in a football game.

    "He might know just about everybody in every city, as long as he's been playing," Rams punter Bryan Barker said. A 16-year veteran, Barker delivered the line with a grin, a backhanded complement to Landeta's longevity.

    Landeta, 43, is in his 21st season in the NFL and is one of only nine players who have spent at least 20 seasons in the NFL. He ranks second on the all-time list with 1,379 punts, trailing Jeff Feagles of the New York Giants, who has punted 1,425 times. Landeta also is second in career punting average: 43.3 yards. He was a member of both the All-1980s and All-1990s teams and made Pro Football Digest's All-Time All-Pro team.

    Landeta had little time to bid adieu to friends because of his abrupt departure from St. Louis last year. He entered his last game with the Rams on Nov. 21, 2004, ranked second in the NFL in net punting average. After the Bills returned punts 53 and 86 yards, Landeta was the fall guy. He was released five days later.

    "I was so disappointed that I wouldn't be there," he said. "Everybody there, the coaches, players and the organization were so great to me."

    Landeta was replaced by Kevin Stemke, who lost the job in camp to rookie Reggie Hodges. The youngster lasted five games before being replaced by Barker. Landeta spent two weeks in the Eagles' camp before being released but continued to train on a high school field near his home in Manhasset, N.Y.

    The injury bug that plagued the Eagles at key positions also hit punter Dirk Johnson. The Eagles signed Hodges, who lasted three games before being replaced by Nick Murphy on Nov. 22. Landeta was signed the following week.

    "I brought a lot of young guys in and tried them out," Eagles coach Andy Reid said. "I figure Sean might not kick it the furthest, like he used to, but I at least know it's going to be the same depth every time."

    Considering the short leash on which most punters are kept, longevity is a gift that the veterans treasure. Landeta, for example, moved with the Rams to St. Louis from Los Angeles but left after 1996. He returned in 2003 and played 10 games last year. His career also included more than eight seasons with the Giants and a season each in Tampa Bay and Green Bay. He's in his second stint with the Eagles.

    Barker, 41, has traveled almost as much. He was cut three times before landing a gig in Kansas City, followed by stops in Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Washington and Green Bay.

    The old-timers agree that because each team carries only one punter, they would seem to be in a more tenuous position, than, say, a defensive lineman. If the starter has an off-game or two, he's demoted.

    "There is no second string in punting, but the security is no different than any other position," Barker said. "This is a performance-based business. You either perform, or somebody else does your job."

    The two have exchanged pleasantries and war stories before and after games through the years.

    "There's only one punter on each team, and it's a very small fraternity," Barker said. "Those of us who are lucky enough to play this sport for a few years get adopted into the fraternity. It's always fun to catch up with everybody on a weekly basis."

    Given the vagaries of the profession, Landeta said he relished yet another chance.

    "You have to enjoy it. It's a privilege, and it's so fleeting," Landeta said, seemingly unaware that few would consider a 22-year career fleeting. "On the one hand, that's true. On the other, it's gone by so fast. And you never know how long it will last."

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  • RamWraith
    At 42, Landeta's alive and kicking
    by RamWraith
    By Jim Thomas
    Of the Post-Dispatch
    Wednesday, Oct. 13 2004

    Sean Landeta had just turned 9 when Jim O'Brien's last-second field goal gave
    hometown Baltimore a 16-13 victory over Dallas in Super Bowl V.

    "Me and every other kid in Baltimore, we wanted to be that guy, because he just
    won the Super Bowl," Landeta recalled. "So we went out and started kicking
    field goals over an old volleyball net."

    That's how it started for Landeta - on a playground close to home in suburban
    ****eysville, Md. Make a mark in the dirt with your heel, stick the ball in the
    ground, then take a running start.

    Still, the kicking and punting was all for fun - just playground stuff - until
    the summer before his senior year at Loch Raven High.

    "I was going to get my senior picture taken, I guess this was August of '78,"
    Landeta said. "As I was leaving, just by coincidence, the football coaches
    happened to be coming right by."

    They exchanged pleasantries, then one of the coaches, Ben Petrilli said:

    "Your friends say you kick pretty well. Why don't you come out and kick for

    Landeta accepted the offer. Over the years, Landeta has often thought about
    what would have happened, how his life would have turned out, had he not bumped
    into the coaches that day. What if he'd hit a red light on the way to school
    that day? What if the photographer needed to take another picture?

    But none of that happened. More than a quarter of a century later, Landeta is
    still punting. He parlayed that one season of high school kicking into a
    partial scholarship to what was then known as Towson State.

    He was an NCAA Division II All-American in 1982 as a punter, kicked three
    seasons in the old USFL for the Philadelphia-Baltimore Stars and then signed
    with the New York Giants in 1985.

    He's been punting in the NFL ever since. The 2004 campaign marks his 20th NFL
    season, making him one of only nine players in the history of the league to
    have played 20 seasons.

    "I can't believe, with the USFL, it's been 23 years," Landeta said. "It just
    goes so fast. You blink your eyes. You just try and appreciate every one. You
    wish there could be another 23 ahead of you."

    At age 42, he may not be booming them like he did in 1986 and 1990 - his two
    Pro Bowl seasons. But he's still better than average. Five games into the '04
    season, Landeta's 43.4-yard punting average is tied for 13th in the NFL. If
    that average holds, it will be Landeta's second-best since the 1996 season -
    when he ended his first tour of duty with the Rams.

    -10-14-2004, 05:53 AM
  • RamWraith
    Stemke given the boot by St. Louis
    by RamWraith
    Green Bay's Kevin Stemke left 'dumbfounded' by the Rams' decision to cut him this week

    By Todd McMahon
    Another NFL off-season. Unfortunately for Kevin Stemke, yet another period of downtime consumed by an uncertain future.

    Stemke, a Green Bay native and former standout at Preble High School and the University of Wisconsin, is back on the all-too-familiar market seeking employment as a professional punter.

    The St. Louis Rams cut Stemke this week, which came as a "huge shock" to the 26-year-old and those close to him, agent Chris Murray said Tuesday night.

    "We're as dumbfounded as anybody," Murray said.

    According to Murray, Stemke learned of his impending release Friday while on the golf course with former Wisconsin kicker Vitaly Pisetsky, who was married the next day. Stemke took a call on his cell phone from first-year special teams coach Bob Ligashesky, who informed Stemke that the team had decided to part ways with their incumbent left-footed punter.

    Stemke handled the chores the last month and a half of the 2004 season, after replacing deposed veteran Sean Landeta. Stemke averaged 39.8 yards in 28 punts during his most extensive in-season NFL stint in four years.

    The Rams apparently are content to ride the right leg of rookie Reggie Hodges into the summer and possibly into next season. Hodges, a Ball State product, was taken in the sixth round of the draft last month. For now, he's the only punter on the Rams roster.

    "We actually didn't think much of (the addition of Hodges) because Kevin has been punting (in the off-season) as well as he has his entire life," Murray said.

    Figuring the selection of Hodges was intended to stir up competition for the job the next few months, Stemke never saw the walking papers coming.

    "It just doesn't make a whole lot of sense," said Murray, who pressed Rams officials for an explanation last weekend.

    He gathered from those conversations that the decision to get rid of Stemke was rendered unilaterally by head coach Mike Martz, who is on his fourth special teams coach in six years.

    "Kevin had a good rapport with the new special teams coach. (The release) just doesn't make a whole lot of sense," Murray said. "It's the biggest hammer that's been thrown down with one of my clients."

    Murray said Stemke was in St. Louis on Tuesday meeting with Ligashesky. Attempts to reach Stemke, who cleared waivers Tuesday, were unsuccessful.

    "His (initial) reaction was, 'I'm done with the NFL,'" related Murray, "but that was off the cuff. He has no intention of giving up on playing in the NFL."

    To that end, Murray is optimistic Stemke will attract interest from other teams in the coming...
    -05-12-2005, 11:01 AM
  • RamWraith
    Rams cut rookie punter after bad game Sunday
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats

    On Monday, the Rams released rookie punter Reggie Hodges. His replacement is expected to be 41-year-old Bryan Barker, briefly in camp with the Rams this season.

    Out with the new, in with the old(er).

    On Monday, the Rams released rookie punter Reggie Hodges, 23. His replacement is expected to be 41-year-old Bryan Barker, a veteran of 16 NFL seasons. Barker was with the Rams briefly in training camp, but he was released Aug. 30 after punting just two times in preseason games.

    Hodges, a sixth-round draft choice from Ball State, was inconsistent from the beginning, which was why Barker was signed the first time. After winning the job, Hodges started poorly, averaging just 33 yards on four punts in the season opener at San Francisco.

    He rebounded with an impressive seven-punt, 42.9-yard performance the next week at Arizona, but he slumped again in the following three games. Hodges averaged only 33.2 yards on five punts in Sunday's 37-31 loss to Seattle. The Seahawks started three drives in Rams territory, and one at the 50-yard line, after Hodges punts. They scored 20 points on those possessions.

    "I just didn't hit the ball well, plain and simple," said Hodges, who was booed lustily by Rams fans. After five games, Hodges' gross (38.0 yards) and net (31.0) averages were the lowest in the NFL among first-team punters.

    Barker, 6-foot-1 and 205 pounds, has been with Kansas City, Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Washington and Green Bay. He averaged 40.1 yards (33.4 net) last season with the Packers. His career average for 1,082 punts in 42.1 yards (35.6 net).

    When he was in Rams camp, Barker said: "I feel good, I feel healthy, I still enjoy it, I had a lot of fun last year, and apparently people still call me. As long as they call, I'll keep doing it."
    -10-11-2005, 05:53 AM
  • RamWraith
    Stemke's Dream Comes True
    by RamWraith
    By Nick Wagoner
    Staff Writer

    Most young football players dream about getting a chance to play in the NFL. An opportunity to put on any NFL uniform is good enough to make any kid drool. But, what if you had the chance to play in your hometown on Monday Night Football after a few years of bouncing around?

    Put more simply, what if you were new Rams punter Kevin Stemke? He lived out his childhood dream of playing in the NFL after signing with St. Louis on Friday. Stemke replaced one of the league’s most well known punters in Sean Landeta, who was released Friday.

    He traveled with the Rams to his hometown of Green Bay, Wis., to play in front of his friends and family against the team he grew up rooting for, on the field (Lambeau Field) he fantasized about playing on and all of it happened on Monday Night Football.

    Stemke’s debut was a solid one. He had just two punts, but dropped both inside the 20, with a long of 39 yards.

    “That’s just about my dream come true,” Stemke said. “This is about as good as the opportunities get. I’ve just got to go out and perform and convince them they made the right decision.”

    Perhaps the most amazing part of all of it is the distance Stemke had to travel for the opportunity.

    The Rams contacted him early lat week, asking him to come in for a tryout. It was getting him to St. Louis that was the hard part. Stemke has been living in Mulhouse, France with his wife Elizabeth, who is a professional volleyball player there.

    When the Rams called, Stemke was living with his wife and working out in case he got an opportunity with an NFL team. Stemke played in two games with Oakland in 2002, averaging 42.4 yards per punt. That came after a training camp stint with the hometown Packers in 2001 and time with the Rams in 2002 after an impressive career at the University of Wisconsin.

    There he earned the first Ray Guy Award as the NCAA’s best punter. He spent this preseason with Washington. He punted against the Rams in their preseason game on Aug. 27. He had one punt in that game, a booming 58-yard kick that landed inside the Rams 20. That wasn’t enough, though, and Stemke was cut.

    He was then left with a decision to make.

    “I stuck around for a while and had a few workouts, but I didn’t get a call for a couple of weeks,” Stemke said. “I said, ‘I’m going to join my wife in France and live off her for awhile.”

    Stemke arrived in St. Louis on Thursday after struggling to find a flight out of the tiny city in northwest France. When he finally located one, he hopped on the plane, had a layover in London and was in the Gateway City in time for Turkey Day.

    Rams coach Mike Martz said the team has had its eye on Stemke for awhile, from the time Stemke spent with St. Louis and his performance against the Rams in the preseason.

    -12-02-2004, 06:30 AM
  • RamDez
    Rams veteran punter still gets his kicks
    by RamDez

    Associated Press

    ST. LOUIS - St. Louis Rams punter Bryan Barker wouldn't mind giving the foul weather a swift kick.

    The 16-year veteran, who signed last week with the Rams, has done little punting as the team practiced indoors Monday and Tuesday at Rams Park. So far, he has not been able to compete much with rookie Reggie Hodges for the job since he was brought in Thursday.

    "I watched him (Hodges) play on Friday night. We've had rain since, and we're indoors here, and it's not really a place to kick inside here," said Barker, 41.

    "Hopefully, the competition will heat up. I wouldn't have come here unless I thought I had a chance to compete for the job."

    Barker has been working since 1990 when he broke in with Kansas City. After four years with the Chiefs, Barker spent one year with Philadelphia and punted for Jacksonville for six years. Barker then spent three seasons with Washington before joining Green Bay last year. In all, he has appeared in 227 games. Barker has made 1,082 punts in his career with an average of 42.1 per kick.

    All those travels have left Barker with a veteran's mentality. He knows punters are changed as often as oil in a car. It comes with the territory.

    "I wouldn't say (you need a) thick skin; you just need to be very levelheaded," Barker said. "You deal with the good and the bad and don't get too excited with the good and don't get too down with the bad. It's one kick at a time, the old cliche."

    Staying in shape, Barker said he expected to get a call from a team sometime in August. He was watching his son run in a track meet in New Orleans when the Rams called.

    "I've been doing it a long time," Barker said. "You always have to be ready."

    That's why the Rams signed him.

    Hodges, a sixth-round draft choice from Ball State, began training camp as the only Rams punter on the roster. However, he did not put a stranglehold on the job.

    In the Rams' first night practice, Hodges did not perform to expectations.

    That performance convinced Rams coach Mike Martz to bring in another punter to provide Hodges with competition. The move also gave Martz some veteran insurance.

    "After watching Reggie and his inconsistencies, we have to protect ourselves," Martz said. "In terms of a punter, I'm a front-runner all the way, I can promise you that."

    In the preseason opener last Friday, a 17-13 victory over visiting Chicago, Hodges punted six times for a 39.8 average. He placed three punts inside the 20. He had a long kick of 49 yards.

    "The thing with Reggie Hodges is consistency," Martz said. "He has the talent to be an outstanding punter. The one thing he has to do is do it when the pressure is on, so we have tried to...
    -08-16-2005, 03:57 PM