Punter Gardocki enjoys other side
He previously had played on teams that lost big games in Pittsburgh.
LATROBE, Pa. (AP) -- Pittsburgh Steelers punter Chris Gardocki isn't waiting until the season starts to meet up with some of his biggest rivals.
They're right there in the Steelers' training camp.
Joey Porter? Gardocki walks past him every day, though the two have yet to have a long conversation. Bill Cowher, the man to whom Gardocki once directed an inappropriate hand gesture? He not only failed to hold a grudge against Gardocki, he led the Steelers' off-season pursuit of him.
Maybe it's because Gardocki has spent much of his career playing on teams that lost big games in Pittsburgh, but he is enjoying being on the other side for a change.
During a 2000 game against the Browns, Porter decked Gardocki following a punt -- a legal hit but one that Gardocki and the Browns felt crossed the line. Gardocki responded by making a hand gesture toward the Steelers bench.
Four years later, the Steelers were much more interested in Gardocki's feet than his hands when he went on the free agent market.
"It was sort of a surprise when they signed me because I've been playing against the Steelers for a long, long time, going back to Indy and the [1995 season] AFC championship game," Gardocki said. "Being on the wrong end of it against them in the playoffs so many times wasn't any fun ... so it was a good surprise."
Gardocki's $6.3 million, five-year contract included a $1.1 million signing bonus. Former Steeler punter Josh Miller has signed with the Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
One reason why the Steelers pursued Gardocki is his reputation as a good cold-weather kicker -- he's spent much of his career in Chicago and Cleveland -- and his quickness in getting punts off. Gardocki, who averaged 41.9 yards per punt last season, has 978 consecutive punts without a block, an NFL record.
Weather not a factor
The weather aspect of moving to Pittsburgh doesn't bother Gardocki, mostly because he has spent so much time kicking in cold-weather cities.
"You don't worry about those things because you have no control over them," said Gardocki, who will make $760,000 in salary this season along with his signing bonus. "Everybody has to deal with them."
There also is a familiarity factor with Gardocki.
Steelers special teams coach Kevin Spencer once held the same job in Indianapolis, and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt was the Browns' special teams coach during part of Gardocki's five-year stay there.
There was another reason why Gardocki was intrigued by Pittsburgh. He has played in three losing playoff games there, during the 1995 and 1996 seasons with the Colts and in the 2002 season with Cleveland, so he figured that switching sides might be the right thing to do.
"Maybe I can be part of something special here," he said.
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