For a very brief time this offseason, Jon Ryan had to leave the country. When the new league year began in March, Ryan's title changed from Seahawks punter Jon Ryan to free-agent Jon Ryan, or in the eyes of the U.S. government, which provides Ryan's work visa, he was unemployed Canadian Jon Ryan. Ryan was able to take care of that issue with a quick trip to Vancouver, and after returning to on a visitor's visa, he was able to again secure a work visa when he re-signed with the Seahawks.
That was good news not just for Ryan's ability to stay in America, but also for the Seahawks who maintained continuity on special teams with Ryan and kicker Steven Hauschka, who are two big reasons why the Seahawks have been so strong on special teams throughout Pete Carroll's tenure in Seattle.
"It has been huge for us," Carroll said of Ryan and Hauschka's play. "It has been an enormous asset and we've relied on those guys so consistently and for so long it seems, and they've just been a dynamite duo. Jon's really hitting the ball, and Hauschka is accurate as can be right now. It's really a statement about their preparation through the offseason and having a great camp. We're just going to pick up where we left off here as we get into the regular season."
Ryan, the Seahawks' longest-tenured player having signed with the team in 2008, and Hauschka who signed in 2011, have been two of the most consistent players at their positions over the years, and if anything both look like they're only going to be better heading into 2016.
Through three preseason games, Hauschka has made six of seven field goal attempts, including kicks of 49, 50, 52, 53 and 53 yards, and his only miss was a 53-yarder on which his approach to the kick was thrown off by a high snap. Ryan, meanwhile, is averaging 54.1 yards on 16 punts, and a net average of 45.6 yards.
"After three games in preseason, our kickers are doing great," Carroll said. "Jon is ridiculously on fire right now, and Hauschka keeps hitting all of his stuff too. That's not to go unnoticed. That's because they prepared really well and they had a great offseason and a great camp, and they're really hitting it like they're capable. I'm really fired up for those guys."
For Hauschka, one of the keys to his success has been trying to incorporate different forms of workouts each offseason to avoid hitting a plateau. In addition to kicking footballs, Hauschka can frequently be seen during or after practice kicking a soccer ball, usually left-footed to try to keep his lower-body and core strength balanced after so much right-footed kicking. These past couple of years, Pilates has played a role in his success, he said.
"I always try to put it together this time of year, and I'm right on track right now," Hauschka said. "We've had a few good opportunities and it's been fun to show it. Just trying to get the confidence up and swing away like I will in the season.
"Every offseason I like to work on something new. Whether it be a new training method or just going out there and trying something different. The last couple of years it has been Pilates for me. I do a lot of different things in the offseason to see if it will help me out at all during the season."
Ryan, who got married this offseason to comedian/actress/writer Sarah Colonna, also credited his offseason workout plan with his strong play this preseason, even if he had to make a quick immigration-related detour to Canada. And despite being an unrestricted free agent, Ryan had no desire to play elsewhere after eight seasons in Seattle.
"It was obviously my number one choice with a bullet. I really had no interest in going anywhere else," Ryan said. "When it came up and I was a free agent for a couple of days, it was a little bit scary thinking of putting on a different jersey, it wasn't a great thought, and I'm very happy with the way it worked out."
As Ryan put it while presenting an award at the MTR Western Seattle Sports Star of the Year Awards in February, "The people in Seattle, the people in Washington, the people in the Pacific Northwest have accepted a fair-skinned, freckle-faced redheaded kid from Canada with a speech impediment who punts a football, and made him feel like a superstar… You guys are the greatest fans in the world."
Ryan has become a fan favorite for his sense of humor, his occasional touchdown pass in the NFC championship game, but also for being, along with Hauschka, a big part of very strong special teams unit that once again figures to be a strength of the Seahawks in 2016.
"Our kicking game should be very solid," Carroll said. "We have a really good chance with Tyler (Lockett) back on there on the returns and our guys booting it. We should have a nice chance to have a good special teams group."
Photos from the Seahawks' "Bonus Day" workout on Sunday at Virginia Mason Athletic Center held prior to the team's final preseason game of 2016 against the Oakland Raiders.