Hang time helps Turk defy age

Texans punter Matt Turk, who turns 42 in June, is on the verge of being the oldest player in the NFL this season. The only players older than him in 2009 were kickers Matt Stover and John Carney, and neither is on an NFL roster as of this posting.

That's not news to Turk. He gets plenty of grief about his age inside the Texans' locker room.

"I hear it, but it's all in good fun," Turk said. "I think I'm still young at heart. You have to have that young mentality to play this game and you have to keep it fun or it will get old really fast, especially if you've done it for as long as I've done it. I still try to go out and have fun and mess around with the guys. I rib them right back. When I get the old man jokes, I usually will find something to rip on somebody else."

While Turk keeps getting older, his numbers keep getting better. In each of the past three seasons, he has set the Texans' franchise record in gross punting average. In 2009, Turk had the best net punting average (39.4 yards) of his 14-year career.

Much of that success for Turk, who stays in shape with the help of a grueling workout regiment, is because of the booming hang time that he gets on his punts. It's a skill that Texans special teams coordinator Joe Marciano said has become a lost art.

"The kids that come out of college, they can't hang the ball," Marciano said. "Number one, they can get away without hanging the ball because the rules are different (in college). Everybody can leave on the snap. The gunners all get singled up one-on-one. In our league, they don't get one-on-one, they get double-teamed.

"They're not getting coached, in my opinion, in college as well. And a lot of them are doing that rugby punt where they roll out, roll out, roll out and hit it and then it just hits and rolls forever. That might be the smart thing for a college coach to do that. Their job is to win college games, not develop punters for the NFL."

Turk, who finished college at Wisconsin-Whitewater in 1992, is quite the opposite.

"I take pride in striving to have the best hang time in the league on every punt," he said. "I think there are two-to-three guys left that kick for hang time. But the majority of punters in the league are really just looking at that bottom line gross number.

"My motivation comes from wanting to be better than I am right now and knowing that I can get better and that I can actually have a better year than I just had, that I can have a better net average, that I can maybe go a whole season without kicking a touchback, that I can help my team in the field position battle."

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