Johnny Townsend is still learning what’s in his bag.
Much like a golfer figuring out what clubs he feels most comfortable using, the former Florida Gator is using his first training camp as an Oakland Raider to figure out when and where to use each of his multiple kicks.
“He’s got a lot of clubs in his bag and we’re going to try to use them all, depending on where we are on the field,” said Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator Rich Bisaccia. “I think that’s what he’s learning the most now. Where am I and what can I use where I am on the field? What’s the wind doing? Who is the returner back there and how dangerous is that guy? What can we do to help our coverage with the punt? For our return guys to kind of figure out, is he going all the way across his body, is he going towards the sideline? Is he going to try to get a hang? It’s kind of a chess match to some degree.”
Following a stellar career at the University of Florida, the Silver and Black selected Townsend in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, with an eye for him being the team’s punter for the foreseeable future.
That point was reinforced throughout the Offseason Workout Program, and now, as the only punter on the roster, Townsend finds himself in the unique position of not having another person to battle it out against in Napa.
So, in a training camp setting where Head Coach Jon Gruden has constantly preached competition, how does the Orlando, Fla., native accomplish that?
“When Coach [Gruden] does preach that competition, he specifically preaches competition with yourself,” Townsend explained. “Pushing yourself to be the best you can be every day, and trying to better yourself each and every day, so that’s what I do when we talk about that competition is just me pushing myself to be the best I can every day.”
Townsend and Bisaccia set goals for both the day, and the week, but for a rookie punter getting his first taste of NFL football, it all comes down to figuring out what works for him.
“After we go out and we do something we like, we remember it, something we don’t like it, we try to fix it the next day,” said Townsend. “It’s a constant learning process, it’s a constant development, and we’re trying to have the best special teams in the league, and our coach is guiding us in that direction.”
“He’s improving every day,” Bisaccia added. “He’s working on his direction. He’s working on his drop. He’s holding for a lefty, holding for a righty. He’s working on everything possible to become a great player.”
Along with the newness of this being Townsend’s first NFL camp, for the first time in his career, the rookie punter doesn’t have anyone else on the roster to compete with, or bounce ideas off, but even though that’s the case, he’s still finding ways to better his game.
“All through college I always had somebody I was competing with, so it’s just trying not to get complacent, just staying motivated, and like I said earlier, you’re just competing with yourself, and just staying motivated each and every day,” Townsend said. “Everyone around me kind of helps me do a good job of that.”
At 23 years old, Townsend has his entire NFL career ahead of him, but for the time being, instead of looking too far down the road, the focus is on becoming a better punter day by day, and getting a grasp on the clubs in his proverbial golf bag.
“Just the speed of the game is so much quicker than college, so just working on quicker operation time, and the hashes are also different, they’re a little more narrow,” Townsend said. “My angles on punts, and my directions are a lot wider than they were in college, so it’s just getting comfortable with the field and learning what different balls I can hit in different parts of the field. That’s really what I’m getting best at right now.”