ENGLEWOOD - The Denver Broncos probably would have traded for punter Todd Sauerbrun even if they didn’t have to play Kansas City returner Dante Hall twice a year. Sauerbrun was a three-time Pro Bowler, and he came pretty cheap to the Broncos’ subpar special teams. Denver gave up only a seventh-round draft pick and punter Jason Baker to Carolina for Sauerbrun, who is also Denver’s kickoff specialist after it cut kicker Paul Ernster on Tuesday. So far Sauerbrun hasn’t been one of the NFL’s top punters. He is tied for ninth with a 45-yard gross average on punts. Denver ranks 26th in net punting average. Sauerbrun’s net average is 34.6 yards. But Sauerbrun will probably be forgiven if he punts well in Monday night’s game against Kansas City and in the return engagement at Arrowhead Stadium on Dec. 4. Hall has returned an ill-advised punt and a line-drive kickoff for touchdowns against the Broncos the past two seasons. The Broncos hope Sauerbrun changes that trend. “It won’t stop him, but it will give us a little bit of leverage because Todd has a strong leg,” safety Nick Ferguson said. “Hopefully he can get us some good long kicks with hang time to allow us to get the coverage down there.” Two years ago, Micah Knorr’s punt from midfield at Arrowhead Stadium didn’t make it to the end zone and Hall returned it 93 yards for a touchdown. That was the difference in a 24-23 Broncos loss. Last year at Kansas City, Baker hit a line-drive kickoff on the first play that Hall returned 97 yards for a touchdown. Denver never recovered in the 45-17 loss. The Broncos want Sauerbrun to give them a chance to get downfield and corral Hall. “He is going to take his chances because he feels he’s good enough to do that,” Broncos linebacker Keith Burns said of Hall. “A punter can help by not outkicking your coverage, but the biggest thing is giving you hang time and making him wait for coverage to get down there.” Sauerbrun had 3-of-5 kickoffs reach the end zone last week against San Diego. The Broncos are happy with what he has done so far. “He’s done a good job,” coach Mike Shanahan said. “He’s a perfectionist and he’s got the ability to kick the ball 80, 90 yards. I’ve seen it in practice. I’ve never seen a guy kick the ball 90 yards before. “We know why he’s done the things he’s done. He’d like those kicks every time.” Sauerbrun’s thoughts on his performance, Hall, problems he has had as holder for kicker Jason Elam and his role as kickoff specialist are well-kept secrets. Sauerbrun vowed not to speak with the media and has kept that promise. “Don’t bother,” Sauerbrun said to an interview request this week. He will be under pressure Monday, because one mistake can turn into a touchdown with Hall returning kicks. “If you’re a punter, kick it to the sideline,” Shanahan said. “Because every time he touches the ball he has a chance to go the distance. There’s not many people like him. He’ll go down as one of the all-time greats at returner.” CONTACT THE WRITER: 476-4891 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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