It was a busy Sunday with the 10th Anniversary of September 11th and the start of the NFL season! Not to mention the great performances of all the TKS Alumni in high school and college.
The San Diego Chargers kicking game took a huge blow when the Minnesota Vikings took back the first kickoff 103 yards for a touchdown. Nate Kaeding got injured on the play trying to make the tackle and all indications show a torn ACL on his left knee and as of this post Norv Turner said “Nate is out for the season.” After that, the punting warlord of the NFL, Mike Scifres, (fresh off a new contract extension) was the placekicker. Although he did not warm-up in pre-game with any field goals, hit a few during half time and Coach Turner decided to extend his field goal range to around 40 yards. Of course, Scrifres blasted a few touchbacks for kickoffs, which we knew he was capable of doing, but he kicked a 40-yard field goal in a pressure situation. It was Scifres first pro field goal, he did kick some long field goals in college.
Its not often in the NFL that we see the punters kicking field goals, in fact, we often see other position players take over for the kicker if they go out with an injury. It shows how valuable Mike Scifres is at the specialist position. His legendary status took on another level. Scifres is known as the “king of hang time” in the kicking industry and to be able and perform a field goal under pressure puts him in a whole another level. With all the specialization in the kicking industry these days it was nice to see the punter take on the kicking duties and excel. Scifres went on to say in the post game press conference, “the nerves crept in a little bit, but after the first extra point…it was smooth sailing…I knew I was capable of doing it.”
The interesting part from a kicking technique perspective is that you would think that all punters would be great kickers and all kickers would be great punters. As mentioned earlier, in the kicking industry, there has been speclization over the course of the last 10-15 years. Nowdays, the NFL has long snappers on teams that just snap, and sometimes you have a kickoff specialist (David Buehler, Dallas Cowboys). Although with the new kickoff rule this year, it changed the kickoff line to the 35 yard line. We might see less teams carrying two kickers. But we rarely see, a specialist kicking and punting. We don’t see that in the college game either all that much. What the average fans does not undertand and Scrifres explains is a quote: “Kicking off and the field goal is a lot more across your body, whereas punting is more of a straight line,” He is exactly right, kicking and punting are two completely different realms. In the punting motion you have to stay more linear, whereas in kicking you have more torque and come across your body more. With all of these specialization these days, the punters and kickers are improving every year, the muscle memory is ingrained in the kicker and punter for years. It can be difficult for a punter to kick a 50 yard field goal consistently and it can be hard for a kicker to punt a 40 yard punt with decent hang time. And then ask them to perform under pressure is another ball of wax. Which is why Scifres being able to perform the way he did was impressive in my eyes. To be able to average over forty five yards a punt, your body and mind are ingrained with the technique and to change your swing under pressure can be a difficult kick.
As for possible candidates, this is no brainer. The Chargers had Nick Novak in last years preseason camp and is coming off a great preseason with the New York Jets. I personally watched Nick kick all summer long at SDSU working with a holder and snapper in order to prepare for the season. I was working with students on one side of the field and Nick was kicking and working on his technique on the other side, next thing you know he could be the next Charger kicker! As of this post he is expected to come in on Tuesday and workout!
Also want to recommend John Carney who lives in San Diego and is still kicking!