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AJ Cole: The man, the myth, the punter who forces fumbles

AJ Cole took his opportunity to talk that talk.

The punter, in the midst of his most successful season in the NFL, used the recent hype behind his forced fumble against the Kansas City Chiefs to take a couple of shots at his fellow specialists Daniel Carlson and Trent Sieg to hilarious effect.

"I think I got more creditability from that hit than any other play I've had in my entire career," Cole said Wednesday, joking about an ongoing argument he's having with his kicker and long snapper. "My argument with Daniel is, if me and Daniel got into a street fight, who's winning in a fight? He thinks it's him; he's wrong. So I feel like I put some creditability onto that.

"And the other argument that I constantly have with Trent – Trent is bigger than me, he's stronger than me, if we fought straight-up he would win. But if we went into a wrestling competition, me and Trent, where he had no thumbs, who would win? That's the one we're getting into a lot. ... And I'm always asking guys on the team 'Who would win in a wrestling match, me or Trent with no thumbs?' So I feel like I got a little bit of credibility in those arguments which is going to be big for the next couple of weeks."

The NC State punter should be feeling as feisty as ever based off the season he's having — even beyond the highlight forced fumble. Cole currently is having a borderline All-Pro season – leading the NFL in gross average punt yards (52.1) and ranking in the top 10 in punt yardage (1,874), longest punt (71), net average punt yards (42.9) and touchbacks (four). Interim Head Coach and Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia credits Cole's overall progression to him getting physically stronger from the time he's joined the Raiders as an undrafted rookie in 2019.

"The other thing that I think AJ does a great job of is he understands where we are on the field and what he wants to hit," said Bisaccia. "It's not only the red zone or the fringe red zone, what's he going to hit on the right hash, what's the difference between when he plays in our stadium compared to when we're playing outdoors when the wind is a factor. Some of those things and who's playing on the outside for us has a lot to do with the coverage for AJ as well.

"But I just think his brain of what he's going to do, where he gets on the field, what he wants to hit. And he's perfected some other kicks. ... He's done a good job of perfecting some other kicks as well."

"If you got to make a tackle, you got to make a tackle." AJ Cole

Cole also believes his offseason strength program has been beneficial for him performing the way he is. Throughout training. he joked he didn't want to "turn into a meathead and lose all of [my] flexibility," but claims he was able to find a groove in certain dynamic exercises that he will probably resume throughout his career. He's also worked with other punters in the NFL, specializing in different kicks and dissecting film in the offseason. His forced fumble on Chiefs cornerback Mike Hughes is actually something he prefers to not have to do again this season. He recognized that while it was great heads-up play on his part, his main concern is to eliminate the return game with fair catches.

"But it's not something I'm scared of doing," added Cole. "If you got to make a tackle, you got to make a tackle."

The growth of Cole has been evident, and he's built a place for himself in the heart and consciousness of Raider Nation – alongside legendary Raiders punters Ray Guy and Shane Lechler. If he continues to have this type of season, he'll only generate more buzz and potentially make the 2022 Pro Bowl in Las Vegas. Who knows, he might be able to generate enough interest for a nice prizefight against Daniel Carlson in MGM Grand.

"He thinks he's a real tough guy, and he is a tough guy. But how many forced fumbles does Daniel have?"

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