When Shawn Powell returned to One Bills Drive earlier this week he thought it was just for a workout, similar to the ones he recently had with the Jets and Buccaneers. After he was cut at the close of the preseason by Buffalo he was told to lose some weight and keep improving his consistency. Little did he know the call back was to sign a contract and replace the longest tenured, and one of the most respected, players on the roster.
"When they called me I really didn't think anything of it," said Powell. "I knew his contract wasn't up until next year and I thought they were just bringing me in to see that I was still losing weight and still kicking and staying on top of my game and keep tabs. It was a total surprise to me and a shock to me. I had absolutely not the slightest idea. That's honestly what I thought."
Powell had figured once he lost the preseason battle to Moorman for the roster spot that he would have to bide his time and wait for a job opening somewhere in the league. There were a few such openings last week. Detroit lost punter Ben Graham to a season-ending calf injury. Philadelphia was looking to upgrade after cutting Chas Henry and Dallas wanted to improve their punting situation.
Whether the Bills were concerned about possibly losing out on the opportunity to add Powell for the long term to another NFL club is unclear, but GM Buddy Nix did admit that they thought so much of Powell they considered drafting him. He also said when they look to upgrade it's rarely, if ever, a short term fix.
"We try to look at more than just this week in trying to upgrade," said Nix. "We are trying to get a little better at each position and looking down the road," said Nix.
"We all talked about it and we all made the decision," said head coach Chan Gailey. "It ultimately falls on me, but we made the decision and it was what we needed to do at this time."
Powell will make his NFL debut this Sunday in Ralph Wilson Stadium, but the rookie insists he doesn't feel any added burden to live up to Moorman's lofty career numbers.
"If I can have half the career that Moorman's had it'll be successful," said Powell. "Two-time Pro Bowler and all that kind of stuff. He was a role model when I was here and helped me out to get better. I'm grateful to him."
Powell believes he can fulfill what special teams coordinator Bruce DeHaven is looking for from his punter.
"He said, 'My philosophy is I want it outside the numbers and high,'" said Powell. "It really depends on the situation. If we're deep in the end zone he wants a little more distance on it just to get it out. If we're inside the field he wants us to hang it up there for a fair catch. When I went to the Jets and I went to the Bucs, that's what they wanted too. High kicks with a lot of hang time."
The rookie punter also knows he's got to get extra work in practicing holds and placements for kicker Rian Lindell. The coaching staff wants Powell as the regular holder in the very near future.
"Shawn will practice there," said Gailey. "Tyler (Thigpen) will practice there. We'll see as it goes. Eventually Shawn will do it as soon as he gets some experience."
Powell took 50 snaps in practice Wednesday just to place it properly knowing Lindell has a particular way he likes the ball set.
"He likes it tilted a little up front and to the side," said Powell of Lindell. "That will take me about a week of taking snaps and it'll all be worked out."
During training camp Powell handled placements for rookie kickoff specialist John Potter so he's taken snaps from long snapper Garrison Sanborn.
Sunday is a pivotal AFC East battle between the Bills and Patriots, but the rookie doesn't see it as added pressure for him to perform. He's keeping it simple and staying confident.
"It's an opportunity," said Powell. "That's really what it is. Everybody knows how well Moorman did for these past 12 years. So now I'm just trying to make the best of the situation that I have and get out there and do what got me here."