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Bengals P Huber, hurt on illegal hit, needs surgery

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Cincinnati Bengals punter Kevin Huber will have surgery Friday to repair his broken jaw, the team announced Tuesday.

Huber, who was placed on injured reserve, sustained a broken jaw and a cracked vertebra when popped by Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Terence Garvin during a first-quarter punt return in Sunday night's 30-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The NFL acknowledged Tuesday that the hit, in which Garvin's helmet made contact with Huber's chin, was illegal. No flag was thrown, but a penalty should have been called. The result of the play was a 68-yard touchdown return by Antonio Brown.

"Huber, he's a punter. And the key is he's defenseless throughout the down," Dean Blandino, the NFL's vice president of officiating, said on NFL Network. "So even though he's pursuing the play, he still gets defenseless-player protection. You can't hit him in the head or neck, and you can't use the crown or forehead parts of the helmet to the body. ...

"You'll see the close-up where you can see the contact to the head or neck area. So this will certainly be a point of emphasis this week, especially with our referees who are responsible for the punter on plays like this.

"We want to flag hits like that."

To take Huber's place, the Bengals signed former Buffalo Bills punter Shawn Powell on Tuesday. Powell will also be expected to hold for kicks in Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Powell emerged from a tryout Tuesday. He opened the season with the Bills, but was cut in October.

Huber, in a neck brace Tuesday, said he will need four to six weeks of rehab after surgery on his jaw.

Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said Tuesday that Huber should have no problems returning to action next season.

Asked if it was a dirty hit by Gavin, Huber didn't want to place blame.

"It's not an easy thing to watch," Huber said. "It's not my job to make that decision. He came for a block, he got me blocked, and they scored a touchdown. It worked out for them on that play. It's too bad it happened. I wish I could be out there playing."

Huber, 28, averaged 40.5 yards per punt this year during his fifth season with the Bengals. After he was injured, Cincinnati kicker Mike Nugent took over punting duties Sunday, and he averaged 40 yards on two punts.
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