the study of the kicking components within sports

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Pre-Lockout Specialist Signings: Persistence

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.
Slow and steady wins the race.
Where there's a will there's a way.

Sure, they're tired old clichés, but they're clichés for a reason... probably because they're true. The themes surface often when discussing kicking and punting jobs in the NFL, as there are only 32 of each. In recent weeks, three candidates for those jobs were signed by NFL clubs. In each case they're trying again.

The Chicago Bears signed punter Richmond McGee. It will be his third consecutive off-season/pre-season with the team. We recently asked Richmond what he's been doing during the past couple years to hone his skills, stay in shape, and maintain mental focus?
"P90x, run three times a week, swim three times a week in the summer, kick 30 balls a day three times a week, and stretch. That's pretty much it in a nutshell. The hardest part is the transition to the punts with the deep snap and rush... and kicking in front of the whole team where it really matters. I try to make myself believe that I am with the team when I'm kicking on my own but it's not the same."
The Pittsburgh Steelers signed kicker Swayze Waters, who appears to be getting closer to a starting job with each passing year. In 2009, he was signed as an undrafted free agent by Detroit, where he served as a camp leg and pre-season injury fill-in behind Jason Hanson. In 2010 he was signed by Oakland, where he served as a camp leg behind Sebastian Janikowski. His efforts kept him on other teams' radar. Midway through the 2010 season, he tried out on the other side of the bay when the 49ers needed an injury replacement for Joe Nedney. Waters lost out that day to another persistent kicker, Shane Andrus. This summer in Pittsburgh, he could very well be competing for the starting job.

The New York Jets signed Nick Novak, whose situation is a little different. He has previous NFL starting experience from several years back, in brief stints with Washington, Arizona, and Kansas City. He's looking to get back into the NFL. Last summer, when he was serving as a camp leg and injury fill-in behind San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding, Novak discussed his situation:
"The most important thing for me was to get back on an NFL roster and to practice at this level on a daily basis regardless of the situation. I couldn’t go around choosing the perfect situation for a competition. This is as good as it gets for me at this point in my career....
As long as I focus on me and do the best I can, good things will come from it. That’s my attitude and I’ve got a great group of teammates that I think will help me become the best kicker that I can be. I have the utmost respect for all three of them. I’m not even focused on whether I’ll be here long term. My goal is to do my job the best I can."
Last fall Novak played for the Florida Tuskers of the UFL, which initially hindered his goal to return to the NFL, but may have eventually helped it. Part way through the season, he was set to return to the Chargers when Kaeding was again injured, but the UFL blocked the move. By the end of the season, he was the league's highest scoring player and was voted the league's Special Teams MVP, which probably factored into the Jets signing.

All three players have a shot at starting in the NFL in September. If not... tomorrow is another day.

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