|Jets' kicker 'tryout' has teams pondering backups|
|Written by Admin|
|Friday, 12 September 2008 09:22|
The New York Jets were without a kicker last Sunday after Mike Nugent was injured, so everyone with a healthy leg was on call.
``It's one of those things you never think is really going to happen,'' coach Eric Mangini said, ``and really hope it doesn't happen.''
Backup quarterback Kellen Clemens lined up and swiped at the football, lifting it just a few feet off the ground. Safety Kerry Rhodes took a shot, too, and launched one over the practice net and nearly into the stands. Punter Ben Graham, a former Australian Rules star, drop-kicked balls at the goal posts.
``I saw they were having tryouts on the sideline,'' Minnesota kicker Ryan Longwell said. ``You don't want to get in that situation, for sure.''
The kicking follies made for a few laughs, but had other teams around the NFL considering their own contingencies if their placekicker goes down during a game.
have somebody that's going to kick a 40-yard field goal, but at least give you a chance to kick an extra point.''
Nugent injured his right thigh on a kickoff, and later missed badly a 32-yard field-goal attempt. Quarterbacks coach Brian Daboll desperately turned to Brett Favre and asked if he could kick.
``It was right after Mike had attempted that kick and I said that I can't even kick that well,'' Favre said with a grin. ``We never talked about it again.''
The Jets were in a unique - and nearly costly - situation in their 20-14 win over the Dolphins. With no kicker, they were forced to go on fourth-and-13. Favre turned it into a touchdown, but New York failed on the 2-point conversion.
Most teams say they would send out their punters, but Graham has had very little success in his limited action over three-plus seasons attempting field goals or kickoffs in practice.
``I've worked on it,'' he said. ``There was a point last year where we even brought in one of the old-style cleats with the steel-cut toe or whatever. We tried a bunch of different things.''
Kansas City coach Herm Edwards said his team would be in a similar situation with punter Dustin Colquitt as the backup kicker.
``He probably wouldn't kick field goals,'' Edwards said. ``You'd have to go for two points all the time after touchdowns. We wouldn't ask him to kick the point after.''
reverse roles about once a month in practice.
``I'm pretty sure I could hit a PAT,'' Kluwe said. ``As for field goals, I'd give it maybe a 60 percent chance of going through. It's a completely different kicking motion than a punting motion is.''
Buffalo punter Brian Moorman and kicker Rian Lindell have also practiced backing up each other. And it hasn't always gone smoothly.
``In fact, one year we were doing it in training camp,'' special teams coach Bobby April said. ``It was kind of a walkthrough and we had our helmets off. Brian kicked the ball and hit (defensive end) Ryan Denney in the head.''
Denver rookie punter Brett Kern routinely goes through kickoff and field goal footwork in his head, just to be prepared in case something happens to Matt Prater.
``I just go through it mentally instead of physically,'' Kern said.
In Jacksonville's opener last season against Tennessee, the Jaguars' Josh Scobee strained his right quadriceps in pregame warmups. Adam Podlesh, Jacksonville's rookie punter, had very little experience with field goals, so the Jaguars went for it several times on fourth down and lost 13-10.
It worked out OK for Carolina in 2004, when punter Todd Sauerbrun was pressed into action when John Kasay strained his left calf. Sauerbrun kicked a 34-yard field goal and converted all four PATs in a 37-27 win over San Francisco.
a helping leg.
In 1980, Houston Oilers kicker Toni Fritsch pulled a muscle during warmups before a game against the Jets, so Ted Thompson - yes, now Green Bay's general manager - was called on to kick extra points. Thompson was a linebacker who also doubled as the team's backup kicker and made all four PATs.
``Back in the day, you had a 40-man roster,'' Thompson said. ``Everybody was multitasking.''
The left tackle jumped offside on Thompson's first extra-point attempt, so they had to back up and kick it again. He still made it, but the Jets won 31-28 in overtime.
``We wound up losing, so my visions of grandeur never came to be,'' Thompson said. ``I thought all along, especially going into overtime, I was thinking I would end up being the hero.''
Philadelphia ran into a similar problem against Oakland in 2005, when David Akers came in with a hamstring problem and reinjured it on a kickoff. Linebacker Mark Simoneau tried an extra point and it was blocked, and kickoffs were handled by tight end/long snapper Mike Bartrum. Akers ended up kicking the winning field goal from 23 yards out.
Detroit's Jason Hanson pulled a hamstring in the opener against Green Bay that same season, and punter Nick Harris handled kickoffs.
``But I still had to kick an extra point and a field goal,'' Hanson said, ``and it hurt like crazy.''
unk of his locker and pulled out a black, square-toed shoe he bought for almost $200 a few years ago in case of emergency.
``It's legal,'' Harris said. ``We sent it to the league office and it was approved. But it's too heavy, so I don't use it.''
New York signed veteran Jay Feely to replace Nugent earlier this week, and he'd better stay healthy. Otherwise, the Jets could end up holding open tryouts again.
``I do hold my high school's record, and it's one of my greatest achievements, for PATs,'' Clemens said with a proud grin. ``But it doesn't mean much because we scored a ton of points and I had only about a 50 percent success rate.''
Hmmm. Better keep that sign-up sheet handy.
AP sports writers Chris Jenkins in Green Bay, Wis., Jon Krawczynski in Eden Prairie, Minn., Larry Lage in Detroit, Arnie Stapleton in Denver, Doug Tucker in Kansas City, and AP freelance writer Bob Matuszak in Buffalo contributed to this story.