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Watch Rams punter act tough with shove, then cower when faced with payback

St. Louis Rams punter Johnny Hekker before a game against the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 27.

St. Louis Rams punter Johnny Hekker before a game against the Seattle Seahawks on Dec. 27.

(Stephen Brashear / Associated Press)

It’s not often that punters get involved with a physical play on the field unless a kick coverage is blown or someone rolls into their legs.

On Sunday, St. Louis Rams punter Johnny Hekker made the uncommon decision to take the fight to one of the Seattle Seahawks’ best defensive linemen, Cliff Avril.

After a second-quarter punt as Avril was watching the return downfield, the 6-foot-5, 236-pound punter ran up behind the Seahawks sack artist (6-foot-3, 260 pounds) and delivered a shot that sent him to the ground.

“I’m jogging down the field and somebody comes and hits me in the back,” Avril told the Seattle Times. “It happened to be the doggone punter. But it is what it is. ... To me, he’s just a coward.”

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Hekker’s shot didn’t go unnoticed by the officiating crew, which flagged Hekker for unnecessary roughness, a 15-yard penalty.

“It’s my first personal-foul penalty, and it should be my last,” Hekker told the newspaper.

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It wasn’t, however, Hekker’s first hit to the blind side of a defender as Twitter users pointed out. He also delivered a knockdown blow to a Saints defender during another game.

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Avril, who leads Seattle with 7-1/2 sacks, clearly remembered the hit from No. 6 on the next punt, running full speed at Hekker as if to deliver the payback hit even if it would cost his team a penalty.

Avril stopped. Hekker flinched. A punter was reminded of his place on the NFL ladder of toughness.

“I was trying to protect myself. It wasn’t the most manly looking thing, that’s for certain. My teammates got my back and I’m sure I’m going to get plenty of crap from them and from everybody else,” Hekker told the Associated Press.

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Not to mention his opponents.

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“Yeah, he was scared,” Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said. “He squealed like a little girl.”

Follow Matt Wilhalme on Twitter @mattwilhalme

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