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Tandon Doss' Unusual Punt-Catching Technique

Posted Oct 10, 2013

WR Tandon Doss frequently catches punts with his hands over his head.


Ravens wide receiver Tandon Doss leads the NFL in average yards per punt return this season (16.7).

So he’s doing a lot right.

But Doss says that the way he has caught nearly all of his 13 punt returns is actually, technically, wrong.

Doss has an unusual way of fielding the high, often knuckling balls. While most returners cradle the ball into their arms and chest, Doss reaches both hands out and snatches it out of mid-air like a receiver would catch a pass.

It’s quite rare and seemingly incredibly difficult.

“Honestly, it’s just a bad technique,” Doss said. “It’s just me misjudging the ball. I’m usually running up too close when it’s still hanging. I’m ready to run forward with it instead of waiting, catching it and going.”

Doss said the correct technique is to put your elbows together and catch the ball against your body, like bringing it into a pocket. But some punt returners have their own style.

For example, Doss said that Denver’s Wes Welker, who the team considers their safe pooch-punt returner (despite his Week 1 fumble against the Ravens), crosses his arms to create a “V” shape that the ball’s nose falls into.

“[Coaches] really just tell you to catch the ball,” Doss said with a chuckle. “It depends on where it is. If a ball is dropping, usually I’ll try to get underneath it. But if it’s high and hanging and I have to open up to it, then I’m going to catch it with my hands usually.”

Doss actually doesn’t like to catch the ball against his chest pads.

“For me, if a ball hits my chest, it’s coming out,” he said. “It’s just awkward for me.”

Doss’ technique impresses his teammate and fellow punt returner Jacoby Jones, who is an electric punt returner in his own regard. Jones remembers watching Doss catch punts above his head, with one hand, backhanded. He’s even seen him do it in the rain.

“He’s probably got the best hands on the team,” Jones said. “It’s pretty freaky.”

Special Teams Coordinator Jerry Rosburg pointed to just one other punt returner who he remembers catching the ball like that, Cleveland’s Kevin Johnson.

“It stems from him being a receiver. When he sees a spiraled ball like that, he doesn’t see any reason why he should put his arms under it when he can catch the ball over his head and he’s done it his whole life,” Rosburg said. “It takes extraordinary hands. … So far it’s served him well.”

Asked whether he gets nervous when Doss plucks the ball above his head, Rosburg joked, “I’m nervous all the time. It doesn’t matter.”

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