ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- For the first time in over a decade, someone other than Brian Moorman will handle the Buffalo Bills' punting duties.
Moorman, a Buffalo fixture since signing as a free agent in the summer of 2001, was released Tuesday in a move that general manager Buddy Nix deemed necessary in order to "upgrade at the position."
The Bills signed Shawn Powell to replace Moorman after the two had competed during training camp and the preseason. Powell was ultimately released before the regular season.
"It is always a tough decision, especially a guy like Brian who has been here for 12 years," Nix said. "He had a great career with the Bills and has been kind of a staple for this organization. But it was a decision we felt like we needed to make."
Moorman is a two-time Pro Bowler, and he leaves with his name atop virtually all of the franchise's all-time punting lists, including a record 43.9-yard career average and most punts inside the 20 (243). Also, his 48.2-yard average in 2011 was a single-season franchise high, and his 84-yard punt at Green Bay in 2002 was the longest in Bills' history.
Moorman also played in every game for the Bills since arriving in 2001, a streak that had reached 179 straight games.
But the 36-year-old had struggled during the first three games this season, and his net average was a mere 32.7 yards thanks in large part to Jeremy Kerley's 68-yard punt return for a touchdown in Buffalo's season-opening loss to the New York Jets.
Running back Fred Jackson expressed shock on his Twitter account about Moorman's release, but Tuesday's move was surprising only because of its timing -- three games into the season.
Moorman's status on Buffalo's roster was already in jeopardy before the 2011 season, but the Bills elected to keep him because of his leadership and veteran experience on what was a young, patchwork special teams unit. The Bills were already looking ahead to eventually replacing Moorman with the addition of Powell, who was among the team's final cuts this year.
Off the field, Moorman was highly involved in the Buffalo community. Through his PUNT foundation, he visited local hospitals during the season and attended numerous community events during the off-season.
"He and his wife, they do a lot of good things," Nix said. "That makes it tougher."
A text message left for Moorman was not returned, and his cellphone voice mail box was full.
The 6-foot-4, 243-pound Powell from Florida State, signed with the Bills as an undrafted free agent after April's draft. He was the Seminoles' career leader with a 44.2 punting average.