CINCINNATI -- If Cincinnati Bengals fans needed a reminder Monday who their team was playing this week, all they had to do was look at punter Kevin Huber's Twitter timeline.
That afternoon, as players voluntarily showed up to Paul Brown Stadium to get treatment and to work out one day after returning home from a 14-13 win at Tampa Bay, Huber tweeted a photo from inside the equipment room.
— Kevin Huber (@khuber10) December 1, 2014
In the foreground are three stand-alone face guards, each of which are typically found attached to the helmets of linemen and linebackers. Punters really have no need for such heavy-duty protection.
But then again, it isn't often that punters break their jaws after high, hard blindside hits from linebackers who had been sprinting full speed toward them.
Exactly 354 days ago, Huber had that happen to him.
"I remember getting hit, being on the ground, the doctors rushing out," Huber said earlier this week as a horde of local media asked to him relive the moment the Steelers' Terence Garvin knocked him out of the teams' previous meeting last December in Pittsburgh. "I remember I didn't feel good."
It was late in the first quarter of the Steelers' eventual 30-20 win when Huber lofted a short 38-yard punt that split the middle of the field. Alone in space as Pittsburgh returner Antonio Brown fielded the punt and started running straight ahead, an unsuspecting Huber had no idea he was in Garvin's crosshairs. The blocker was looking for bodies to clear and lanes to open. From where he stood, it appeared Huber would be in Brown's way.
So he ran hard and lit Huber up. No flags hit the field.
As Brown eased by the blown-up Huber and finished off his 67-yard return with a touchdown, Bengals trainers started rushing out to the punter. After several minutes of evaluation, Huber emerged. Face bloody, a packet of crimson-stained gauze filled Huber's mouth as he jogged off the field and toward the Bengals' locker room. Little did the Cincinnati native know at that moment, but his season was over.
With Pittsburgh coming to town Sunday, Huber contends he isn't seeking revenge.
"Get revenge on him? I didn't think about it, no," Huber said. "He made a football play and he hit me. He hit me a little too high, but it is what it is. You can't do anything about it."
NFL officials later acknowledged that officials should have flagged Garvin for a personal foul for hitting a defenseless player. At the time, the gesture meant little to Huber, who was forced into a neck brace for a few weeks and to drink his meals for several days. It also backed up his preparation time this offseason by a month.
Since the injury, though, Huber has had arguably the best punting performances of his career. He leads the league in percentage of punts inside the 10 and the 5, and he ranks second in net punting average to Indianapolis' Pat McAfee.
Huber has only allowed two return touchdowns in his career. Brown has both, leading Huber to this conclusion: Keep the ball out the middle of the field.
"One of the phases of punting is getting good placement," Huber said. "I didn't do that. I kind of put our coverage guys in a bind. So I need to get good placement, just like any other returner we've faced, and just give our guys the best chance to get down there and make a play."