When Jeremy Kapinos got a call from his agent last Friday, he didn't want to get his hopes too high.
His agent told him he had received a call from the Steelers and punter Dan Sepulveda was experiencing issues with his right knee and the team might be looking to bring someone in.
"I know Dan and I thought Dan is like a robot," said Kapinos of his initial reaction. "If he just ices it, he will be fine."
So Kapinos went about his normal business, even heading out to take his dog for a walk. When he got back, he looked at his phone and saw he missed about seven calls. He knew something was up. He was right.
Sepulveda had injured the knee in practice last week and was about to be placed on injured reserve, ending his season. For Kapinos, it meant his season was just beginning and he didn't have time to waste.
"I found out, did a little bit of laundry, packed a suitcase and drove up here from D.C.," said Kapinos. "I got to Pittsburgh about 10:30 on Friday night, was at the practice facility by 7:30 Saturday morning for a quick physical, went through the walk-thru and then played in the game. It was pretty intense."
Intensity he welcomed with open arms.
The Steelers originally signed Kapinos when Sepulveda was hurt last December. He finished the season on the active roster, punting in the post-season and Super Bowl XLV.
This summer Kapinos and Sepulveda battled it out in training camp and the preseason, and even though Sepulveda won the battle, Kapinos benefitted from it.
"I think it helped both of our development," said Kapinos. "You could never really have a bad day or have two bad punts in a row. Dan was always answering everything I did and I was hoping to answer everything he did.
"I felt like coming off the field after the Carolina game I was more prepared for the regular season than ever. I think Dan felt the same way. He was doing really well on the field. It helped both of us, and I hope to continue his high standard of punting here."
Kapinos spent the first eight weeks of the season staying ready in case a team came calling, going to tryouts, and never giving up. He went to different cities, knowing an opportunity could be just around the corner, or not at all.
"You just go there and worry about what you can control and that is your punting," said Kapinos. "It was like when I was here in training camp. I just wanted to punt well and let the decisions fall after that. It's like the workouts. You punt well at them and some things happen and some things don't.
"You want things to happen because the work you are putting in, it's a sacrifice. You aren't employed, but doing what you were doing when you were employed. The payoff comes later."
And that payoff is now. Kapinos has spent time with the Jets, Packers and Colts in his four seasons, but nothing beats being back with the Steelers.
"It felt great," said Kapinos. "It didn't really sink in until the defense was introduced and I heard the crowd and the 'Here We Go Steelers' chants. It was just real surreal. I told Shaun (Suisham) when I was walking on the field that I didn't think the odds of me walking back on the field at Heinz Field were good.
"It's great to be here. Of all of the places I have been to and tried out, this has always been number one. It was a weird feeling running out of that tunnel again. It was like I never left. When I was cut after camp it was more disappointing that I wasn't going to be a Steeler than I was unemployed. I really love it here."
Kapinos punted three times against the Ravens for 100 yards, with a net average of 32.3 yards and one punt inside the 20-yard line. He is now looking forward to getting some time on the practice field before going out and playing against the Cincinnati Bengals this Sunday.
"I don't think it set in until Sunday that I was going in there without practicing, just punting," he said. "It was intense. I never had a situation like this in all of my years. It was unusual, unique, but exciting.
"I never played in a game and didn't have a week of practice. When you work out on your own you really miss the aspect of the protection in front of you, pressure coming. You can't duplicate that on your own. Those 12 punts or how many I need on a Wednesday, you get into a rhythm where you catch the ball and you can feel some of the pressure. It's important to get acclimated to the speed and sights and sounds of playing high level football. I really am looking forward to practice."