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Smith Reconnects With Redskins

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It was Week 1 of the 2010 NFL season, and Hunter Smith was – to his surprise – out of the league.

An established, experienced punter, Smith had entered last offseason as an unrestricted free agent. He remained unsigned through mini-camps, training camp and preseason.

Now the NFL was resuming without him.

Fortunately, Smith had family to help him through the inactivity. His wife Jennifer gave birth to a daughter last March and he welcomed time away from football, even if it meant changing a few diapers.

"It was great and terrible on different levels," Smith said. "Twenty-five years of being on a football team at the start of the season, it's sort of a disconnected feeling that you have [not being on a team in Week 1].

"By the same token we had a newborn and it was great to be with our family at the time."

Smith, 33, always knew he would return to the NFL if given an opportunity, though.

Turns out that opportunity came in Washington, the team he played for in 2009.

When Redskins punter Josh Bidwell re-aggravated a hip injury early this season, special teams coordinator Danny Smith immediately reached out to Hunter Smith.

In a workout at Redskins Park, Smith beat out two other punters. He re-signed with the team on Oct. 7.

In addition to handling punting duties, he is expected to serve as holder on field goals for Graham Gano.

"With Hunter, it was his ability to hold and also Danny Smith was familiar with him," head coach Mike Shanahan said. "That was a big plus for him."

Said Smith: "The league will quit everyone at some point, but it chose to not quit me this year, so I'm happy to be back and excited to move forward."

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Smith had a heavy workload against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday, his first game back with the burgundy and gold.

He had eight punts for a 44.6-yard average, with a 35.3 net average. He pinned five punts inside the Packers' 20-yard line.

Last year, Smith played in 13 games for the Redskins, compiling 57 punts for a 41.3-yard average, with a net of 36.8. He pinned 23 punts inside the 20-yard line.

He missed three games due to a groin injury.

The injury is fully healed after an offseason of rest, Smith said.

"It was an injury that wasn't crippling, it just kept me out for a couple games," he said. "Getting that rehabbed all the way [in the offseason] and getting back to 100 percent, it's great to be back out on the field."

Smith was involved in some creative special teams plays last year for the Redskins.

In Week 1 against the New York Giants, Smith scored on an 8-yard touchdown run on a fake field goal in which he was the holder.

In a Week 10 game against the Denver Broncos, Smith tossed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Mike Sellers on another fake field goal. His efforts earned him NFL Special Teams Player Of the Week honors.

Late in the season, in Week 16 against the Giants, Smith attempted another special teams pass on a fake field goal, in what has become known as the "Swinging Gate" play. Smith was left to fend for himself against three Giants pass rushers and his throw was intercepted by safety Bruce Johnson.

Prior to joining the Redskins in 2009, Smith spent 10 seasons with Indianapolis Colts, playing in 160 consecutive regular season games and 15 postseason contests. He was part of the Colts' Super Bowl XLI championship team.

In his 11-year career, Smith has punted 634 times and averaged 43.2 yards per punt, with a net of 35.6.

A native of Sherman, Tex., Smith was drafted by the Colts out of Notre Dame in the seventh round of the 1999 NFL Draft.

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