Hanson light to fight

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Chris Hanson is nearly 40 pounds lighter and ready to take on all comers at any weight.

"I just wanted to be more explosive this year. I wanted to get a little lighter. I felt I was a little too heavy last year," Hanson said of his leaner physique, the result of an offseason dedicated to high-intensity training and eating right.

Two plays, the blocked punt for a touchdown in St. Louis and Antwaan Randle El's punt return for a touchdown in Pittsburgh, ruined Hanson's net punting average last season. Hanson finished at 36.9, 18th in the league, but would've been in the top five had it not been for the St. Louis and Pittsburgh plays.

"It was about the same numbers I had in my Pro-Bowl year. I had a good year. The only thing I wasn't happy about was we had that blocked punt for a touchdown and we had that runback against the Steelers," Hanson said.

There are no allowances for mistakes in the NFL. Hanson knows this is a league built on competition and he has no problem with the recent signing of veteran punter Toby Gowin. It's almost as though he expected as much.

That's the way it is for a guy whose career got its biggest shot in the arm when he was cut by the Dolphins. It allowed him to be claimed by the Jaguars, who desperately needed a punter. The Jaguars got the guy they needed and Hanson got the chance he needed.

That was 2001. Hanson was elected to the Pro Bowl the following year. Four years later, Hanson is still feeling challenged to prove himself.

"Competition is always good. It brings out the best in you. You never know in this business. It keeps you on your toes. It keeps you competing at a high level. I've known Toby. It's good to have someone in here you know. We can make each other better," Hanson said.

"I just didn't feel in shape last year. If I had to run somebody down, I want to have the speed to do it. Last year I didn't think I could do that," he added of the weight loss.

Hanson was number two in the league last year at punting the ball out of bounds inside the opponents' 20-yard line. He lost the number one spot in that category to Detroit's Nick Harris on the final Sunday of the season, 34-33.

"That's what I take pride in; to give the other team a long field," Hanson said of his inside-the-20 punts.

"In this business, we're always being pressured to perform. It's not just pressure from Toby, it's pressure from every punter coming in. That's a good pressure. It's not a panic pressure. It's going to make me better. I'm trying to help our team get back to the playoffs. I'm just trying to keep myself at my highest level," he said.

"I still got it and, hopefully, I'm going to keep it for a while. My leg is still strong and my mind is strong," he added.

Competition helps keep it that way.

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