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Chargers to release punter Mike Scifres

SAN DIEGO -- The drafting of Texas A&M punter Drew Kaser in the sixth round will bring about the release of longtime punter Mike Scifres, San Diego Chargers general manager Tom Telesco said.

“We just felt like it was time,” Telesco said. “We like Drew a lot. We think Drew has a bright future in this league. And just like when Mike came into this league and took over for Darren Bennett, this is kind of like what professional sports are. It’s a tough call, but something we thought we had to do.”

A fifth-round draft pick by the Chargers out of Western Illinois in 2003, Scifres spent his rookie season learning the tricks of the trade from Chargers Hall of Fame punter Bennett, veteran kicker Steve Christie and longtime long-snapper David Binn.

Scifres took over for Bennett the following season and has been San Diego’s punter ever since. He’s tied for 12th in NFL history, averaging 45.2 yards per punt over his career.

But Scifres’ strength during his time with the Chargers had been pinning opponents inside the 20-yard line. Among punters with at least 600 punts, Scifres has the highest percentage in NFL history of punts landed inside the 20-yard line at 40 percent.

Scifres finished his career tied for fourth in team history with 195 games played. He also finished with the most career punt yards in team history with 33,797.

Scifres was scheduled to make a little over $3.5 million in base salary in the final year of his contract.

Scifres, 35, had a down year in 2015. His net punting average of 38.0 yards was No. 28 in the league, and Scifres averaged just 23 percent of punts inside the 20-yard line this season.

“Before we sent the pick in I called Mike and told him what the plan was -- that we were going to draft a punter with this pick -- and we were going to release him,” Telesco said. “I told him how thankful we were for what he did for this community, No. 1. No. 2, as a punter and a football player, he’ll probably go down as the best punter in this organization’s history.”