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Sullivan: Releasing Moorman a gamble

The Bills had their reasons, no doubt, for cutting punter Brian Moorman, a two-time former Pro Bowler and a team captain, and replacing him with a rookie who has never kicked in a regular-season NFL game.
I'll say this, though: Let's hope that Shawn Powell, the new punter, is more ready than Tarvaris Jackson, who was acquired one month ago today and has yet to master the deep complexities of Chan Gailey's spread offense.
There's no breaking-in period for Powell. Here's the football, kid. Go out and tilt the field against the Patriots on Sunday. No worries. Pay no attention to the hooded genius, Bill Belichick, and Tom Brady on the opposing sideline. Try not to dwell on the fact that no one other than Moorman has owned the punter's job in Buffalo since before the 9/11 attacks.
No worries. No pressure. Try not to look ahead to December, when the winds are blowing sideways inside Ralph Wilson Stadium and rain is pelting your facemask and you can barely see the ball, never mind kick it 40 yards. Do you know punters have actually had the ball go backwards at The Ralph? Did that ever happen when you were kicking at Florida State?
Oh, and try not to lie awake at night worrying about holding for place-kicks. Moorman was the holder for Rian Lindell. They had lockers next to each other. They knew each other like an old married couple. They probably finished each other's sentences. Lindell would raise an eyebrow and Moorman would know it was time to call for Garrison Sanborn to snap the ball.
Actually, Gailey hadn't decided on Wednesday whether Tyler Thigpen or Powell would hold for Lindell this week. He said he might wait until Powell has more experience. Punting and holding against the Pats is a lot to put on a new guy's plate. Gailey knows he booted a dozen years of experience out the door when he cut Moorman, who signed with Dallas on Wednesday.
"You think about all that stuff," Gailey said. "You do. It's never easy. None of those decisions are easy. We all know what great people Brian and his wife are for the community. So it's never easy. I don't like that part of the job.
"We were hoping to get more consistency [from Moorman]," he said, "and we weren't able to get it. He had a great preseason, and just wasn't able to get it back."
Moorman had slipped from his two-time Pro Bowl form the last two years. General Manager Buddy Nix said the team is always looking to upgrade. This was a bold move on Nix's part. You have to give the man credit, he's not afraid of the tough call. He doesn't give a hoot about public opinion.
But cutting Moorman was a gamble, and the Bills had better be right about it. They're trying to make the playoffs this season. There's no guarantee that Powell will be as good as Moorman. You never know about a kicker until he performs in real NFL games, where the stakes and the consequences are magnified. So for now, the Bills have a special teams crisis on their hands.
"We're always under the gun," said Lindell, in his 10th season as the Bills' kicker. "It's always a big game, a big punt, a big field goal, a big return or whatever. I can't worry about what people on the outside think, or what their perception is."
The perception on the outside is the same as inside the locker room. "Definitely, the whole locker room was shocked," said quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fans were shocked, too. Moorman, 36, was a respected teammate and leader. He was admired in the community for his charitable foundation and his work with Roswell Park and Carly's Club.
The NFL is a cold business. Ask the referees. You don't keep a player around because he's a good teammate and a pillar of the community. But it makes people more quick to wonder if the team did the right thing.
From what I'm told, DeHaven and Moorman never quite saw eye-to-eye. It's hard to fathom, two Kansas guys being at odds. But it was mainly about style and tactics.
DeHaven wanted more directional kicks. Moorman preferred those long, booming kicks that pinned teams deep and delighted the crowds.
The Bills wanted Moorman to kick the ball away from Joshua Cribbs last Sunday. Moorman did a decent enough job.
He angled five kicks to the sideline and boomed a 66-yarder that Cribbs returned 27 yards. But at the end of the day, he was still 30th in the league in net punting average.
That wasn't good enough. The Bills had considered getting rid of Moorman before. They finally acted Tuesday, perhaps concerned that Powell might get snapped up by another team. Of course, if Powell was so good, you wonder why he wasn't drafted or picked up earlier this season.
Lindell was asked point-blank if he understood the move.
"Uh, yeah," he said. "I guess, I mean, I'm not the decision-maker. You know what I mean? I just worry about field goals. It kind of makes it easy for me."
Still, he conceded it would be odd, not having Moorman in the adjacent locker for the first time in 10 years.
"Oh, it is strange," Lindell said. "We had meetings today and he wasn't next to me. It's kind of like that movie with Matt Damon? Stuck on you. Stuck on me or something,"
'Stuck On You" came out in 2003, the year Lindell came to Buffalo. Damon and Greg Kinnear play conjoined twins who are eventually separated. The kicker said he could relate.
"I don't have somebody to lean on over there anymore," Lindell said, nodding toward Moorman's old locker. "But that's how the game is. That's the NFL."