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Jaguars bring in left-footed punter to prepare for Patriots

Life as an out-of-work punter is not always glamorous. It's far from the bright lights under which some NFL players perform.

In fact, Brock Miller spends his days working for his father's sports mobile app start-up, using his free time to work out and hone his punting. He hasn't given up his dream, but Miller can take solace in this: If the Jacksonville Jaguars beat the New England Patriots today, he will be one contributing factor.

The Jaguars worked out Miller -- a left-footer -- on Thursday to help prepare their punt returners Jaydon Mickens, Dede Westbrook and others for the Patriots' left-footed punter Ryan Allen. The spin is different, the approach is different, it's unfamiliar.

Yes, it's a small detail. But for coach Doug Marrone and his staff, it could make the difference.

"I know a lot of teams are really appreciative of when they can get me in, but it's really a two-way street," Miller said by phone on Friday. "It helps me out, too. A small-school guy, it helps teams find out who I am, getting my name out there. Plus, to help a great team like the Jaguars in the playoffs, help them prepare for a guy like Ryan Allen, just get the returners comfortable. It's like a trend."

It is.

Famously, Patriots coach Bill Belichick often boasts a lefty punter, perhaps an advantage because of the way the ball spins. He called it a "coincidence" this season, but it's clearly not.

This year, it's not an oddity. In fact, 10 lefty punters have punted for teams this season, including four in the playoffs. Allen is one of them.

That has led to a ton of workouts for Miller, who often has been called upon to give returners a look at the weird spin.

"[Thursday's] workout was my 10th of the 2017 season," Miller said. "The Jaguars even did it before they played Cincinnati [which has lefty punter Kevin Huber]. I've been to Cleveland, Chicago, the Niners. And for the most part, it's the same every workout. This time, warmed up indoors, then after practice with [special teams coach Joe DeCamillis], they had me hit a some spirals out of my hand, left and right with the wind to get returners seeing the ball turn over. Then some when it doesn't turn over. They even had me do some Australian rules, end-over-end punts because that looks different from lefties, too. It's just about getting them comfortable back there."

"I think it went well, I got good feedback," he said.

For Miller, it's essentially a token interview. Little chance of getting the job. The incumbent punters haven't been injured, he's never been signed. Except sometimes it works, as it did in 2016 when the 49ers signed him to a futures deal after working him out earlier in the season same thing happened to Giants punter Brad Wing, for instance.

"Hopefully someone pulls the trigger after the season wraps up," Miller said.

Miller hasn't kicked in an NFL game. He still hopes to, says he's improving and notes "the phone is still ringing." What started when the Rams and special teams coach John Fassel brought him in for a workout several years ago to prepare for a left-handed punter is still going.

When Miller watches this AFC title game, though, he'll take pride in his work. It happened when the Jaguars returned a punt for a score against the Bengals this season, right after a Miller workout.

"I don"t know if it was a coincidence or not," he said.

While trying to find a job in the NFL, Miller also worked as a personal trainer for a few years. Now, he works for his dad's company that produces an app -- REPu, a digital platform for schools. He has the flexibility to work out during the day, staying in shape if a workout happens.

"Just keep plugging away," Miller said.

Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet

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