At 5'10", 215 pounds, Todd Sauerbrun doesn't have a punter's physique. "He's unique because he's so compact," Carolina coach John Fox has said. Yet like his longer, leaner colleagues, Sauerbrun, 32, needs to stay limber, which is why he does very little weight training during the season and a whole lot of stretching. "I'm not naturally a flexible person," he says, "so I need to spend a little more time [stretching] than most people." What he's doing must work--Sauerbrun has made the last three Pro Bowls, while becoming the first player to lead the NFC in punting average for three straight seasons.
QUAD TUCK Sauerbrun began doing these stretches in high school--at Ward Melville, on Long Island in New York, where he was an All-America midfielder on the perennial lacrosse powerhouse--and for the past 13 years this has been a staple before workouts. It targets the quadriceps and hip flexor muscles. Sauerbrun holds the position for 10 seconds. "For a punter this one's pretty much a necessity," he says.
HAMMY WHAMMY Before and after each workout Sauerbrun finds a shoulder-height machine (in theory he could use a shelf or anything that high) on which he stretches both his right (kicking) and left legs. He holds each stretch for at least 10 seconds while pulling his head toward his knee. The exercise works the hamstring and lower back and helps develop a quality essential for good punting: Sauerbrun calls it the key stretch for "giving me the height that I need on my leg swing."
KARATE STRETCH In the Panthers' training room Sauerbrun has little competition for this leg-stretching apparatus. Favored by those who do martial arts, it stretches the groin and lower back. Sauerbrun cranks open the machine, pulls his torso forward and holds this position for several minutes before practice and games. Says Sauerbrun, "It's so comfortable, I'll drink a cup of coffee while working out on that thing."
FOUR COLOR PHOTOS
BEN VAN HOOK (SAUERBRUN, 4)