Kordell Stewart got his nickname not because of how he moved. It was because he was a multihyphenate. Early in his Pittsburgh Steelers career, “Slash” was a quarterback-receiver-running back. Years later, he’d go on to earn another slash, the most unlikely and fleeting of his career — and in Baltimore, of all places.
In 2004, Stewart had been signed to back up Kyle Boller, the Ravens’ second-year quarterback. Stewart’s first appearance didn’t come until Week 10, in an eventual overtime road win over the New York Jets. The team’s starting and only punter, Dave Zastudil, had separated his shoulder on a second-quarter return. Coach Brian Billick knew Stewart could punt a little.
“Yeah, well, you’re a starter now,” Billick, now an NFL Network analyst, remembered telling Stewart. He’d punted in high school and once for the Steelers in 1998. “He goes, ‘What?’ and went in.”
If there were ever a season for the stuff of coaches’ nightmares to play out on a weekly basis, this is it. Across the league, staffs are resigned to the inevitability of players missing games this year because of COVID-19. The coronavirus pandemic could send more players to the injured reserve in 2020 than football itself.