Buffalo never stopped feeling like home to Brian Moorman.
Now, it is again.
The Buffalo Bills made sure of that Sunday, signing Moorman to take the place of punter Shawn Powell, who was released Friday. It’s a return to the team with which Moorman spent the first 11-plus years of his 12-year career.
“To be a part of the organization that I spent so much time with and have an opportunity to continue and to finish my career here is a great feeling,” Moorman told The News on Sunday night. “I’m grateful for it.”
Moorman, who was signed for the remainder of the season, beat out former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe for the jobs with the Bills. Both players worked out for the team.
“I went through a training camp this year so I had that under my belt,” Moorman said. “I felt like I could still compete at this level. My leg feels great. I feel like I’m kicking the ball well. It’s just putting it all together and doing it on game day. That’s what I hope to do. I couldn’t ask for a better place to go.”
Moorman spent the first 11 full seasons with the Bills after signing with the team as an undrafted free agent in 2001 out of Pittsburg (Kan.) State. He appeared to be on his way to a 12th season with the team in 2012 when he beat Powell out in a training-camp competition.
The Bills, however, made a change after a Week Three victory at Cleveland by releasing Moorman and bringing Powell back. The opposite was true this year: Powell’s release Friday came after a poor performance in a loss at Cleveland on Thursday night.
Moorman spent the rest of 2012 with the Dallas Cowboys – finishing with a gross average of 44.6 yards and a net average of 38.9 yards on 56 punts in 12 games.
The 37-year-old Moorman had been working out in Florida since being released by the Pittsburgh Steelers prior to the start of the regular season. A return to Buffalo given the way his tenure ended was hard to imagine, but Moorman never closed the door on the possibility.
“You never know what could happen down the road. To me, the past is the past. I’m excited about what the future holds,” he said. “I’m thrilled to be here and to be a part of the Buffalo Bills again.”
In his decade-plus with the team, Moorman became a fan favorite both for his performance on the field (he’s a two-time Pro Bowl selection in 2005-06) and his charitable efforts off of it, particularly through his P.U.N.T. Foundation, which provides various types of assistance for children in Western New York who are battling cancer.
“It’s a pretty good feeling to have that kind of a response. I’ve always known the Buffalo Bills’ fans are special, the people here in Western New York are special,” Moorman said. “I couldn’t feel more comfortable. I’m excited to be here. This is home to us. People have always made us feel that way and they’re continuing to do that. I just can’t wait for Sunday.”
For his career, Moorman is the Bills’ record holder in the following categories: Most punts (862), longest punt (84 yards), highest career average (43.92 yards), highest single-season average (48.22 yards in 2011), highest single-game average (57.83 yards on Oct. 8, 2006 at Chicago) and most punts inside the 20-yard line in a career (243). He also shares team records for most punts inside the 20-yard line in a season, with 33 in 2006 (John Kidd had 33 in 1985) and most punts inside the 20-yard line in a single game, with five (done on two occasions) and tied by Spike Jones, Rusty Jackson, John Kidd and Chris Mohr.
Meanwhile, the Bills’ search for help at quarterback in the wake of rookie EJ Manuel’s knee injury continued Sunday. The Bills hosted workouts for free agents Pat White and Dennis Dixon.
A source close to Dixon told The News there was “nothing to report” between he and the team.
The Bills were said to have a strong interest in former Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman. However, several media outlets reported late Sunday night that Freeman had agreed to a contract with the Minnesota Vikings. The deal is said to be for $3 million for the rest of the season.
A phone call to Freeman’s agent from The News was not returned Sunday.