Passing marks for Ryan debut

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 1:17 PM ET

Jon Ryan already has something to tell the grand kids someday.

The former Winnipeg Blue Bomber, now the punter for the NFL's Green Bay Packers, currently has a better quarterback rating than teammate Brett Favre.

"Someone called me and left a message on my phone and said it was, like, 108, or something like that," Ryan was saying from Green Bay yesterday. "So that's pretty cool."

Actually, Ryan's passer rating is a cool 118.8, after he turned a fake punt into a 16-yard completion to Noah Harris late in the first half of Green Bay's 26-0 loss to the Chicago Bears Sunday.

It was a lousy season-opener for the Pack, but not a bad career-opener for the 24-year-old Regina Redhead.

Playing in front of a record crowd of 70,918 at tradition-drenched Lambeau Field, Ryan booted the ball six times for a 45-yard average, despite the fact butterflies were doing cartwheels in his belly.

"There were some nerves -- I'd be lying if I said there wasn't," Ryan said. "But as the game went by those kind of died down. By the second half I was a lot more comfortable. I hope that come next Sunday I continue to stay calm and just relax out there."

If he does, NFL observers may well see more of the booming spirals he kicked in that second half, the kind of punts Bomber fans got used to seeing a year ago when Ryan set a CFL record by averaging 50.6 yards per kick.

Even with his current numbers, Ryan would compare favourably to the best punters in the NFL. And it's his first year, for crying out loud.

This guy may be the next Guy, as in Ray Guy, legendary leg for the Oakland Raiders.

"I want to establish myself as a solid punter in the league, whether that means being in the top 10 or 15 in average, or whatever," Ryan said. "A guy that's not just going to be around for a year or two, but a guy that's going to have a long career in the NFL."

Funny thing is, Ryan's already experienced more than most punters do in their first season, let alone their first game.

Not only did he complete a pass, he found himself in the unenviable position of being the last man to try to bring down Chicago return man Devin Hester, who took one of his best punts, a towering 51-yarder, back for a touchdown.

"One of my first punts was a really low screamer that bounced and was ugly, and we end up netting 49 yards on it," he said. "And the one that gets returned, I hit it nice and high, 51 yards, and it gets taken back to the house. It's not fair sometimes, but that's football."

So what does Ryan do after the game, but get on the phone with his old Bomber buddy, kicker Troy Westwood.

The two talk at least once a week, and Westwood, in a much better mood than he's been lately, thanks to Sunday's Bomber win, wanted to know what it had been like to play a game in the NFL.

"He said, 'Man, you just played in the NFL -- has it even hit you yet?' " Ryan said. "It hasn't hit me at all, really. I guess, given a little bit of time, it'll start to sink in a little bit more, be a little more real, stop feeling like I'm just living a dream."

He's living it pretty anonymously, too.

Earlier on the weekend, Ryan took his old high school basketball coach for a tour of Lambeau Field, only he actually bought tickets, along with a bunch of Cheeseheads who had no idea he was a player.

"It's kind of funny, because you're with a group of 20 diehard Packer fans," Ryan said. "Not one person notices me. I like that, though."

All we can say it, enjoy it while it lasts.


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