We caught up with Jets punter Robert Malone in the locker room Friday. In his first season with the Green & White, the 24-year-old is on pace to break Curley Johnson’s franchise single-season records for gross and net punting average. Malone talked with us about the possibility of breaking those records, facing off against one of his former teams Sunday, and what the Christmas holiday means to him.
Sunday you’re going up against the San Diego Chargers, a team you previously spent a little bit of time with. What’s your mental outlook heading into this game?
I mean, it’s no different than any other game for me. I knew I wasn’t going to be there to beat out Mike [Scifres, the Chargers' long-time punter]. I played for Rich Bisaccia, who is the special teams coach there now. I played with him at Tampa. He brought me over there, and it was good. I appreciated the opportunity to get some film out there, but I approach it the same as any other game.
How much do you feel that short time playing alongside Scifres helped you?
The thing that benefitted me the most was just the pure competition. He has the highest hangtime in the league and that really helped me improve myself, just to be at that level. I didn’t want to be just totally outdone when I was there, so that constant competition really drove me.
Do you still keep in contact with him?
A few texts messages here or there, but not a lot.
Looking forward to seeing him Sunday?
Yeah, it’ll be good.
Assess your season overall. Would you say this is the best season of your NFL career?
Yeah, I would think so. I’m still getting more consistent as the year goes on. I’m trying to perfect my craft. But I do feel comfortable and it’s been a strong season so far.
Tell me your mental process each time before you punt the football. What’s are you thinking about?
Each punt is a different situation, different scenario. You’ve just got to win each situation and put your team in the best situation. Whether that means getting the ball off as fast as possible, or pinning them back deep, or if you’re directional -punting, spend some time kind of walking through like, “OK, what do I have to do here?” Given the different situations, playing that through my head, and just making sure we execute.
How do you feel like you’ve handled the cold weather so far because it seems like it hasn’t affected you too much.
It hasn’t gotten cold enough too fast, so I kind of got used to it. It’s kind of been a gradual thing. It’s not like it just dropped 50 degrees in one day. I’ve actually kind of got used to it now.
You’re on track to break two of Curley Johnson’s 1965 franchise single-season records in net punt average and gross punt average. Is that something you’re aware of?
I’ve heard about it. I try not to pay too much attention to it. A lot of things can happen. I mean, if these next two games we have to pin ‘em back deep and we have to kick a whole bunch of short ones, that kind of stuff, you just have to win each situation. So I’ve never really been focusing on “OK, I’ve got to break a record” or anything like that.
Your net average is 39.8, very close to reaching a 40.0 net for the season. Is having a 40.0 net average a goal you set for yourself before the season?
I would want to hit 40. Unfortunately, we had the two blocks and we would have been about 41. But it would be an awesome goal if we could reach that. There’s only two games left, so I don’t know if we’ll have enough just to bring up the average. But we’ll see. That’s definitely a goal I always wanted to hit, that 40 mark, because it’s not been done.
Would that mean a lot to you, though, if you were able to break those two team records?
It would be an honor. It’s not something that I’m solely striving for. I’m just trying to put the team in the best position each punt.
Christmas is just days away. What does the holiday mean to you and what’s the day going to be like for you this year?
Well, I’m a Christian and I’m excited to celebrate the birth of Christ. My wife gets to come up. She’s coming up today, actually. She lives back in California and she’s flying up today. I’m excited to see her. We’ll get to celebrate as a family.
*Special Teams Saturday
Tags: Mike Westhoff, San Diego Chargers, Robert Malone, Curley Johnson, Mike Scifres
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