The Green Bay Packers have signed punter Josh Bidwell to a one-year contract as a restricted free agent, GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman announced Wednesday.
Bidwell, headed into his fourth NFL season, ranked in the top half of National Football Conference punters in net average in 2002 (35.7 yards) and finished 10th in the NFC in gross average (41.7 yards).
His numbers represent a continuation of the progress Bidwell demonstrated in 2001, when he posted the second-best net average (36.5 yards) in team history in his second season as the Packers' resident punter.
The 27-year-old University of Oregon alumnus also tied for fifth in the conference with a career-high 26 punts 'Inside-the-20' last season. Additionally, reflecting appreciable accuracy and control, he had only 6 touchbacks among 79 punts, with never more than a single touchback in a game.
Beyond these contributions, Bidwell now has gone 239 career regular-season punts without a block – the third-longest streak in team history, behind only the 274 of David Beverly (1977-80) and the 254 of Donny Anderson (1967-71).
Playing in all 16 regular-season games plus the playoff contest with Atlanta, Bidwell averaged a career-best 53.3 yards per punt (minimum 4 attempts) – also tying him with Boyd Dowler for the fourth-best, single-game performance in team history – at New Orleans (Sept. 15), kicking 4 times for 213 yards with 2 'inside-the-20.' He also enjoyed a season-high 42.3-yard net average and a season-long 57-yard punt against the Saints.
Bidwell later established a career high with 4 punts 'Inside the 20' against Carolina (Sept. 29) and turned in another impressive performance against eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay (Nov. 24), averaging an imposing 48.7 yards for 7 punts, with a long of only 54 yards.
After going through a third consecutive regular season without one, the Eugene, Ore., resident incurred the first blocked punt of his NFL career in the playoff game against Atlanta (Jan. 4) when the Falcons' Mark Simoneau shot up the middle to smother the ball midway through the first quarter.
A testicular cancer survivor, Bidwell now must only undergo a once-a-year checkup to verify his continued good health. He continues to be interested in promoting testicular cancer awareness via early discovery through self diagnosis.