Ax accident left punter embarrassed but not defeated
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Joe Namath will always have The Guarantee. Dwight Clark will always have The Catch. And for his little slice of NFL history, Chris Hanson will always have The Ax.
The Jacksonville Jaguars punter says he is fully recovered from last year's embarrassing locker-room ax injury, although he knows the episode is likely to follow him through the rest of his career.
"I get it all the time," he said Tuesday at Jaguars training camp. "I'm probably going to get that for the rest of my life. I'm just not going to dwell on the past. You can't do that and stay confident."
And really, it's a moment he'd very much like to leave behind.
After an 0-3 start last season, coach Jack Del Rio decided to place a huge tree stump and an ax in the middle of the locker room to illustrate his new mantra, "Keep chopping wood."
Each day, players would take little hunks out of the tree, leaving wood splinters scattered about the locker room. In Week 5, the Jaguars finally won their first game, but the log and ax remained. The next Thursday, after Hanson and kicker Seth Marler had finished their workout but the rest of the team was still on the practice field, Hanson took a whack at the log.
He lost control and hacked a deep, nasty gash in his right, non-kicking, leg. Blood poured out and a rush ensued to get Hanson to the hospital, where he had emergency surgery.
"I'll find another slogan," Del Rio said, clearly embarrassed himself after the accident. "The message was understood."
Nine months later, Hanson said there are no aftereffects of the freakish injury, save the ugly looking scar running down his shin. The fourth-year punter said he reported to camp in the best shape of his life. He made the Pro Bowl in 2002, averaging 44.2 yards a punt, and it would figure that making it back to that level might help quiet some of the snickers.
The Jaguars, meanwhile, never wavered in their beliefs. They gave him a raise and a contract extension in the offseason despite last year's episode.
"I wasn't expecting that," Hanson said. "It was great to know they had enough confidence that I'd be back to normal."
At the very least, the Jaguars might figure Hanson has played out his string of bad luck. The ax accident came 16 months after he, his wife and former Jaguars kicker Jaret Holmes were burned when they dropped a bubbling fondue pot during a get-together at Holmes' house.
Hanson suffered first- and second-degree burns. His wife, Kasey, suffered second- and third-degree burns and needed skin grafts.
The punter said there are no lingering effects from either injury.
"I'm glad that's behind me," Hanson said. "Sure, there were times when I sat there and wondered why it happened. But I owe it to the doctors and the Jaguars for fixing me. It's behind me. It's something that happened that wasn't controllable and I'm happy it's over with now."<
Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index