the study of the kicking components within sports

Friday, August 13, 2010

NFC West Training Camps: Specialists

Ben Graham & Jay Feely, 2008
Arizona Cardinals
All three of the Cardinals specialists are experienced NFL players, although they are relatively new with the club. Punter Ben Graham joined the team late in 2008 and long snapper Mike Leach came on board last year. Kicker Jay Feely is the newest, having been signed this offseason while former kicker Neil Rackers went to Houston via free agency. None of the three are facing competition for their jobs, so the focus in camp and preseason will simply be to get their timing down as a unit. Graham (who also serves as the holder) and Feely do have some brief history, having crossed paths for several games with the Jets in 2008.

San Francisco 49ers
While they may not receive as much publicity or money as their counterparts across the Bay, the 49ers specialists are an experienced and cohesive unit. Kicker Joe Nedney did his part to boost publicity during the offseason by beating a robot in a kicking duel. Punter Andy Lee and long snapper Brian Jennings kept under the radar. Heading into camp there is one other specialist on the roster – kicker Shane Andrus whom the 49ers resigned during the offseason. He had been brought in for the final game of 2009 after an injury to Ricky Schmitt, who had been brought in for the next-to-last game after an injury to Nedney. He is expected to serve as a seasoned camp leg rather than as a challenger.

Olindo Mare
Seattle Seahawks
During the offseason, the Seahawks retained the services of kicker Olindo Mare for another year with their franchise tag. He’s the only kicker on the roster and the only punter is Jon Ryan, who also serves as the holder for Mare on kicks. While those two positions have been and remain stable for the Seahawks, the long snapping position is a different story. Kevin Houser snapped most of last year until suffering a collapsed lung. Jeff Robinson snapped in the final two games, but was not re-signed. Patrick McDonald was added for awhile during the offseason but then released. Former IFL and UFL player Matt Overton was signed, broke his foot and released, but then eventually re-signed. He was almost the only long snapper on the roster heading into camp, however the Seahawks claimed rookie Clint Gresham off of waivers from the Saints and the released Overton again.

St. Louis Rams
The Rams entered training camp with the three starting specialists on the roster. Josh Brown is back again at kicker, but that’s not really news. The team is hoping he’ll see more scoring opportunities in 2010 than he did last year. Donnie Jones is back again at punter, but that’s not really news. The team is hoping he’ll see fewer opportunities in 2010 than he did last year. Chris Massey is back again at long snapper, and that is good news. After missing most of last year with a knee injury, he returned to action during the June OTAs. He’s a vital part of the unit as evidenced by his offseason contract extension of four years and $4 million. Yesterday the team signed kicker Shaun Suisham, as Brown may miss several preseason games due to a minor hip injury.

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