Former CFL punter and kicker Richie Leone is back in Arizona for round two.
After the 2016 CFL season, Leone inked a deal with the Cardinals, however, he was waived among the final roster moves following training camp. The 28-year-old returned north but recently opted out of his contract with the Redblacks and worked out for the Pittsburgh Steelers before signing a practice squad contract with Arizona.
“I can punt in the NFL, there’s no doubt about it. If you look at how the CFL punting game is structured, to a certain extent, with the wider field, it’s more difficult than it is in the NFL,” Leone told Postmedia reporter Tim Baines.
“I’m a punter who has kicked and can kick. You have to make your reps count. I’m an emergency case, you want the team to be confident to have you. Nothing is guaranteed, it’s a week-to-week thing – you have to do your job.”
Leone worked out for Arizona on Sunday and inked his pact on Monday. The news was first reported by 3DownNation insider Justin Dunk. The Cardinals wanted a player with experience and versatility who could punt and kick as the third leg on the team. Currently, Arizona has 38-year-old Andy Lee punting and Arizona State University graduate Zane Gonzalez handling kicking duties.
“It was known to punters and kickers that teams would possibly be looking for a combo guy to carry with practice rosters being expanded. I definitely have the mentality that I can play in this league,” Leone said.
“I have to get myself ready and get the coach to have the confidence in calling my number if that ever comes about. Let’s say one guy tests positive, you can’t just sign a guy, bring him in off the street and get him in the building – you have to pass three COVID tests. That’s created some jobs.”
Leone is a three-time CFL all-star punter, leading the three-down league in punting average in 2015 and 2016 (49.5 and 49.3) and the East Division in 2019 (48.4). The 28-year-old Leone has played 71 career games north of the border punting 472 times for 22,809 gross yards (48.3 average) — 83 yards is Leone’s longest career punt.
“Experience is priceless, it’s something that can’t be taught. I’ve played on the field in Hamilton, I’ve played on a frozen field in the Grey Cup. I’ve grown, I’ve matured, I’m more confident. You have to believe in yourself, whether it’s the CFL or NFL,” Leone said.
“When it became more apparent that teams were going to go down this road, I diligently worked on it. I have experience doing it. When bullets are flying, that’s when I do my best. If I get an opportunity to punt or kick field goals, I’ll be excited. I’m pumped, there’s no reason to feel otherwise.”