Cowboys release Hunter Niswander during shakeup at kicker, Greg Zuerlein still expected for Week 1

There’s been a little bit of a preseason shakeup at kicker for the Dallas Cowboys, as they prepared themselves to tackle the Houston Texans on Saturday — in what will likely be their third preseason game of 2021. The workforce held a exercise for Lirim Hajrullahu on Monday, sources told CBS Sports earlier this week, which led to each side agreeing to a two-year deal mid-week. That, after all, required a roster transfer, and it got here on the expense of punter Hunter Niswander, whom the workforce opted to launch on Thursday.

And with that, Niswander’s as soon as promising profession in Dallas has ended, after stepping in and impressing at punter in 2020 within the wake of damage to the now-released Chris Jones. Initially believed to have the job all however secured for 2021, the Cowboys and particular groups coordinator John “Bones” Fassel as an alternative signed punter Bryan Anger to the combination — creating an intriguing competition in the process (learn: signed Niswander’s strolling papers). 

“Bryan is who I might hoped he was going to be, which is a helluva punter,” stated Fassel on Thursday, after explaining what occurred with Niswander and praising his potential.

“In [the Hall of Fame Game], the damage one thing kinda crept up with him,” he added. “It was kinda his glute in his again, and it wasn’t anyone factor that did it. It was simply his again, I do not assume it was overuse as a result of we weren’t kicking him extra than as soon as each three days. 

“I do not know really what occurred, and I do not assume he does both. It simply kinda occurred. He bought it checked out. It is too dangerous as a result of he was a really priceless leg and an excellent potential punter.”

With beginning kicker Greg Zuerlein starting coaching camp on the bodily unable to carry out (PUP) listing attributable to a again damage, Niswander was tasked with placekicking and area targets, and the latter was mainly an unmitigated failure. Issues had been made worse when Niswander himself suffered a again damage on Monday, clearing the trail for Anger to stay at punter, however with Zuerlein nonetheless on the PUP listing, the Cowboys want a kicker in opposition to the Texans.

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Hajrullahu is now the man, at the least for the second. For the file, Zuerlein hasn’t suffered any setbacks in his restoration, sources informed CBS Sports activities on Friday.

The latter remains to be anticipated to take the sector in Week 1 when the Cowboys play Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the workforce is hoping he can get some kicks in in the course of the last preseason sport in opposition to the Jacksonville Jaguars. In the event that they choose to play it secure with him, nonetheless, it’s going to be Hajrullahu kicking in that sport as properly. And it will be attention-grabbing to see what occurs within the days following that contest, contemplating the NFL deadline to cutdown rosters from 85 males to 53 looms massive, and whereas letting Zuerlein stay on PUP for now saves a roster spot — the second he is activated, one will likely be wanted.

Which suggests Hajrullahu’s keep in Dallas could be short-lived, as anticipated, and regardless of his contract.

“I believe Greg wants about three to 4 weeks of kicking to prepare for a daily season sport,” Fassel said forward of the preseason battle with the Arizona Cardinals. “And I discovered that from Sebastian Janikowski after I was in Oakland. ‘Sea Bass’ actually did not actually infrequently kick all spring or all summer time as a result of he knew the quantity of quantity was going to occur within the preseason, common season, postseason. So, particularly after they change into veteran guys, that I am really very proud of how nice he progressed off the little deal he had this summer time. 

“I informed [Zuerlein] I believed it was a blessing in disguise as a result of it has prevented him from over kicking, as a result of Greg has the tendency to be an over kicker. He simply likes to kick a lot. So, I believe the timing goes to be nice, and by Jacksonville or at the least Week 1. 

“He’ll be 100% on all cylinders and really enthusiastic about it.”

Fassel maintained his optimism when talking to media on Thursday.

“[Zuerlein] had an excellent kicking session at present,” he stated. “We have been kicking him about each different day — each third day and he is progressing similar to we hoped. Final week, in opposition to Arizona, he bought a little bit little bit of pregame exercise in. We hope to do this right here in two days simply exit on the sector and do that pregame warmup routine, have operational kicks with our snapper and our holder. 

“Hopefully kick him in Jacksonville.”

Hajrullahu does present some insurance coverage within the occasion there is a setback on Zuerlein within the subsequent couple weeks, and the previous CFL All-Star additionally has the power to punt, though Anger hasn’t had any points in that space. As for granting him a two-year deal versus a extra anticipated one-year contract, sources affirm it is largely as a result of Cowboys affinity for being cap-conscious, and the added yr offers them extra flexibility in that regard. In different phrases, if he is launched quickly as anticipated, the cap hit (which is already minimal) would unfold over two years, versus solely 2021.

So, at the least for now, there are not any surprises hiding within the bushes in the case of Cowboys kickers; and so they hope to maintain it that manner. | Cowboys launch Hunter Niswander throughout shakeup at kicker, Greg Zuerlein nonetheless anticipated for Week 1


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