CINCINNATI – The Cincinnati Bengals have released veteran punter Kevin Huber and are moving forward with former Ohio State punter Drue Chrisman.
Huber, a Cincinnati native, was in the midst of his 14th season with the Bengals and has played a club-record 216 career games. Chrisman will be added to the roster after playing the last three games as a game-roster elevation from the practice squad, the maximum number of times a player can be bumped up without requiring a spot on the 53-man roster.
Bengals coach Zac Taylor said the possibility of Huber finding his way back to the organization on the practice squad remains a “part of the conversations.”
“Kevin has been such a big part of this organization and city a long time — 216 games played here, which is a leader in the clubhouse for Bengals games played, which is just unbelievable when you think about that,” Taylor said. “He’s represented his family, his team, his city, his school, McNicholas High School, UC, the Cincinnati Bengals, just been a great story and he’s a great person. So we’re appreciative of the time he gave us and the job that he did. Now it’s time to move on to Drue, but Kevin had a great run here, and we are appreciative of that.”
Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons had expressed during the bye week his concerns about Huber’s inability to translate what he was doing in practices to games, and Huber said in the week leading up to the Pittsburgh game Nov. 20 that he knew he wasn’t performing up to his own expectations. That was the first game he was inactive.
Huber was averaging 43.2 yards per punt with nine of 31 attempts inside the 20-yard line, but consistency has been an issue the past two seasons. That didn’t make the decision easy, though.
“He’s been a part of a lot of big, big, big games, a part of a lot of big plays,” Simmons said. “He’s been part of a lot of rides with me personally, from us being hot when he first got here to riding the wave back down to where we bottomed out and riding the wave back up. I can say that there was no more satisfying time here through all the playoffs last year, how it went full circle for him and got the monkey off our back, because me, him and Clark (Harris) were the only three that had been here through it all. I’ve got a lot of great things to say about Kevin, but I feel very fortunate to have been a part of his time here.”
Chrisman, who was expected to compete for the job last year in training camp before an injury sidetracked him, is averaging 51.2 yards per punt with five of nine attempts inside the 20. He has a long of 65 yards.
The 25-year-old Cincinnati native has been on the practice squad since the final roster cuts before the season, an unusual way to use a valuable spot, but it was clear the Bengals saw him as their punter of the future. Taylor said it was just time to make his role official.
Simmons said Huber won the job in training camp but Chrisman improved while on the practice squad and his first three games were a tryout of sorts. Simmons said he didn’t do anything to disappoint.
“I didn’t think Drue was ready (earlier),” Simmons said. “... Kevin was punting the ball well in the preseason. If you look at his production the first three or four games of the year, he punted well. Then for whatever reason it didn’t go well. Drue is someone who’s had a great deal of ability, he just couldn’t put it all together at once, and some of the things we identified in training camp and change and improve on ... couldn’t be done overnight. The best thing for Drue was to put him on the practice squad and work through those things, and he’s advanced.”
Taylor also provided some injury updates Monday. Tight end Hayden Hurst, who suffered a right calf injury Sunday in the first half against the Chiefs is “probably doubtful” for the upcoming game against Cleveland, but the team is seeking more information on his injury. Mitchell Wilcox will be counted on to step up in his absence if Hurst can’t play.
Running back Joe Mixon has a good chance to clear the final steps of concussion protocols “early this week,” Taylor said. He had been questionable to play Sunday in the 27-24 win over Kansas City but Taylor said it would have required another doctor visit to get cleared and it was decided to be in his best interest just to wait one more game.
Mixon was limited in practices last week and the last step is facing contact, which Mixon appears on track to do Wednesday. In his absence, Samaje Perine has made a case for more snaps, especially after racking up 106 yards rushing and 49 yards receiving Sunday.
“It’s a great mixture in there,” Taylor said when asked if Perine could split more of the carries when Mixon returns. “That’s a lot of how we’ve employed them over a lot of games this year. They’ve got a great relationship going back to college so it’s a good mixture to have multiple guys in there.”
Browns at Bengals, 1 p.m., Ch. 7, 12; 700, 1290, 1530, 95.7, 102.7, 104.7
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