Punter out this week, maybe season

Originally Published: October 9, 2003
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

When rookie coach Jack Del Rio placed a stump of oak and an ax in the Jacksonville Jaguars locker room a few weeks ago as a motivational technique, symbolic of his theme to "keep choppin' wood," it was viewed as a sophomoric technique by some veterans.

Now the move is likely to be regarded as a huge mistake.

The Jaguars on Thursday lost Pro Bowl punter Chris Hanson for an undetermined amount of time -- ESPN.com has learned that he will be sidelined 4-6 weeks and could well miss the balance of the season -- when the fourth-year veteran was accidentally gashed on his right (non-kicking foot) while wielding the ax.

Hanson, 26, was taken to a local hospital for what Del Rio before practice termed "a gash of some sort." As it turned out, the injury was severe enough to require surgery. It is not known how long the surgery lasted or what steps were taken to close the gash.

The wound, agent Drew Rosenhaus told ESPN.com, was self-inflicted.

"Chris said that everyone else had been taking a swing with the ax, chopping the wood, and he finally decided to do it, too," Rosenhaus said. "Unfortunately, the ax either went through the wood, or bounced off it, and went into Chris' foot. Chris told me it is a pretty significant injury."

While it is likely that the injury will be fully healed before the end of the season, the Jaguars might be reluctant to carry two punters, using Royals but keeping Hanson on the roster as well. Team officials hinted Wednesday evening to Rosenhaus that they might place Hansen on injured reserve. That would end his season.

"They basically said," acknowledged Rosenhaus, "that there is a chance Chris might not punt again this year."

Jacksonville quickly signed veteran punter Mark Royals, released by the Miami Dolphins two weeks ago. Royals will punt on Sunday against his former teammates.

The accident apparently occurred during a team meeting that the kickers were not mandated to attend. Hanson departed the team's training complex on crutches.

Not surprisingly, the ax was removed from the locker room Thursday afternoon, and the tree stump will soon be gone as well.

It is somewhat surprising that franchise officials, and the league, would permit the tree stump and the ax, given the potential for the kind of incident that transpired Thursday. The stump had garnered plenty of media attention.

Said Del Rio: "I'll find another slogan. The message was understood. The thing was on its way out soon, but not soon enough. It was symbolic more than anything else."