Chargers release punter Mike Scifres

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The Chargers press release:

The San Diego Chargers released punter Mike Scifres, the team announced Monday.

The most prolific punter in franchise history with 34,152 career yards – the equivalent of more than 19 miles worth of punts – Scifres’ 45.2-yard career punting average ranks first in team history and it’s good for 14th all-time among all NFL punters. A portrait of longevity, Scifres appeared in 195 career games, tied for the fourth in team annals. He booted 756 punts during his Chargers career, second in team history to Darren Bennett (771).

“I’m so grateful to have played my entire career for one team,” said Scifres. “I’d like to thank the Spanos family, A.J. Smith, Marty Schottenheimer, Norv Turner, Tom Telesco, Mike McCoy, the athletic training staff, everyone in the front office, and all of the players and coaches I’ve been with at the Chargers for the past 13 years. It’s been one heck of a ride and I wouldn’t change anything. I would especially like to thank the fans for supporting me throughout my career. Chargers’ fans are by far the best in the NFL and I’m sincerely appreciative of their loyalty throughout all the ups and downs. I’m a Charger for life and I look forward to supporting the team in the future.”

“There’s nothing harder than saying goodbye to someone who has been so good for so long for us,” said Chargers Chairman Dean Spanos. “Mike has been one of the best punters in the NFL for more than a decade, but he’s also been a team leader and outstanding representative for our team. He has represented the Chargers with utmost professionalism and class, and it has been a pleasure for me and my family to get to know Mike, Stacie and their growing family. He may not put on a Chargers uniform anymore, but he’ll always be welcome here as a member of the Chargers family.”

“We are thankful for what he did for this community number-one, and number two, what he did as a punter and a football player, said Chargers General Manager Tom Telesco. “He’ll probably go down as the best punter in this organization’s history. He’s a great person. I have a lot of respect for him as a professional. I wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

“Mike is a true pro,” said Chargers Head Coach Mike McCoy. “When players have asked me ‘What does it mean to be a San Diego Charger, I’ll point to Mike Scifres and say that’s what it takes to be a pro. What he’s given to this organization for the past 13 years, we can’t thank him enough. He was everything you could ask for: a leader on the field, in the locker room and in the community.”

“Mike had an amazing 13 years with us,” said Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. “He was one of the guys, and his punting was a huge weapon for us over the years. He had a heck of a run. We will miss him.”

Scifres’ career statistics are even more impressive when comparing them to his contemporaries who’ve attempted at least 750 career punts. In this pool, Scifres’ career average (45.2) ranks fourth, his career net average (38.6) sixth, and his career percentage of punts landed inside the 20 (38.8) second. Also Scifres’ 61 touchbacks and 328 returns allowed on punts are the fewest all-time among punters in the modern era (since 1976) for whom complete punting data is available.

Scifres was drafted by the Chargers in 2003. He spent his first season learning behind Bennett, the Chargers Hall of Fame punter, and took over full-time punting duties in 2004. Over the next 13 years, he became a member of the Chargers’ 50th Anniversary All-Time Team and he was a seven-time Pro Bowl alternate (2004-09, ’13).

Scifres enjoyed his breakout moment during the 2007 divisional playoffs in Indianapolis when he set a team playoff record by averaging 59.0 yards per punt on three punts in the final game ever played at the RCA Dome. It included a team-record 66-yard punt that came with the Bolts backed up at their own 14-yard line with only 1:42 remaining in the fourth quarter. Kicking from his own goal line, the Colts fielded Scifres’ punt all the way back at their own 20. His effort lit a fire on the Chargers’ sideline and San Diego’s defense promptly went out and ended the Colts’ season on downs four plays later, sending the Chargers on to the AFC title game.

Scifres’ upswing continued into 2008 as he set a team record and ranked third in the league with a 40.9-yard net average. He and the Chargers’ coverage teams allowed zero or negative punt return yards in seven of 16 games and he had only five touchbacks in 51 punts (9.8%) for the entire season. Among players with at least 40 punts, only two allowed fewer than Scifres’ 146 return yards, and only five teams had more than 15 punt return yards against the Chargers all season.

Scifres’ outstanding season carried into the playoffs where he enjoyed a record-breaking night in another playoff game against the Colts, this time a wild card game decided in overtime in San Diego. Scifres landed all six of his punts inside the 20, the highest number and percentage of punts ever landed inside the 20 during a playoff game, and he averaged a playoff-record 51.7 net yards as the Colts managed just six punt return yards for the entire game. The Colts were forced to start drives at their own 10, 19, 3, 7, 9 and 1-yard lines following punts, and Scifres’ last may have been his best as it rolled out of bounds at the one-yard line and set the stage for the Chargers to make a late fourth-quarter comeback.

The 2011 season was another that turned out to be memorable for Scifres. Just days before the regular season began, the team signed him to a five-year contract extension. When Scifres put pen to paper though, little did he realize that within a few days, his workload would also include kickoffs, field goals and point after tries. That happened in the ’11 season opener against Minnesota when Nate Kaeding suffered a season-ending knee injury on the opening kickoff of the season. Scifres, who on paper had always been the team’s backup kicker but had never actually been called upon to do so, coolly responded by hitting three extra points and a game-tying 40-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter en route to a 24-17 victory. It was his first made field goal in a live game since his sophomore year in college when he kicked a 56-yard game-winner in overtime against Northern Iowa for a conference title.

A two-time Chargers Special Teams Player of the Year, Scifres won his most recent award in 2012 after averaging a team-record 48.3 yards per punt. It shattered the previous mark of 46.7 that he’d set in 2010. And with a nod to the team’s outstanding coverage units, Scifres posted a 40.6-yard net average in 2012, second-highest in franchise history.

Scifres was on point again in 2013, landing 30 of his 56 punts inside the 20. He allowed but one punt to cross the goal line for a touchback and his percentage of punts landed inside the 20 (53.6) was the league’s best.

Top photo by Claudia Gestro