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Chris Cooley Kicks Field Goals At Practice

Posted by Matt Terl on October 23, 2009 – 5:04 pm

Head coach Jim Zorn was full of praise for kicker Shaun Suisham during his post-practice press briefing today. Asked if the holder last year was hurting Suisham’s percentages, Zorn said, “A kicker has to go out and kick, whoever is holding. If I held and the ball was flat on the tee – he has still got to hit it, right? But there is a rhythm. He has worked very hard and he has concentrated on the rhythm of the kick. I think his holder has given him more and more confidence, but he has done it. He has developed the rhythm, the steadiness, he is more patient, and he is not so much attacking the ball early. He saw a lot of different types of rhythms last year. He is much smoother and I think that is what happens to a kicker. He has found his rhythm.”

Also finding his rhythm kicking today? Chris Cooley. The start of practice was delayed by the shooting of the team photo, which also required an extra uniform change. “I had extra time because I brought out my extra gear for practice before the photo,” Cooley explained, “so when everyone else had to change, you could just consider this my early warm-up.”

http://p.castfire.com/1Ll7r/video/180073/redskins_2009-10-23-164854.flv

Cooley did well, especially in the early efforts you see in the video. (Later, he had a miss that came off the tee low and fast and nearly clocked Ethan Albright in the head.) “I hit from 40 yards with some coaching from Shaun,” he told me, “but I used to be solid from 50. When Koz [former Redskins TE Brian Kozlowski] was here, we would play the kicking games a lot. We were out punting and kicking field goals all the time so I actually got pretty good. But I haven’t kicked at all lately.”
Suisham explained the change he made to Cooley’s kicking mechanics like this: “He was leanin’ back a little bit and pulling his toe up as he leaned back, so it’s important for him — because he’s got a strong enough leg — that, if he keep his head down and stay straight down the field, the ball’ll stay straighter for him.”

At this point, Suisham pretty much has a side gig teaching random celebrity non-kickers how to kick, having done the same thing with Alex Ovechkin and his Capitals teammates. I asked Suisham which of his all-pro pupils was the better kicker, and he was nearly paralyzed with indecision.

“Ovechkin, he was two for three,” Suisham started. “Conditions could’ve been different — he was on a game field, pressure could’ve been heightened at FedExField, Chris is out at practice.”

Suisham paused, thought for a second. “So this is Russia vs. USA with a Canadian making a decision? Okay … Well,” he said, “I gotta say, if somebody had to go in the game, I would put Cooley in.”

The backtracking began almost immediately. “But, just because I’m such a hockey fan, I’m really tempted to say Ovechkin. If I had to make a personnel decision today, Cooley would be kicking.”

Cooley, as you’d expect, had no such doubts; his view on the subject was cloudless and clear. “I saw a couple of Ovechkin’s kicks,” Cooley said, “and I don’t think that they were great, but he’s a pretty good athlete and I think if he kicked for a half hour while we were messing around, he’d probably be about the same as me.”

When you watch Cooley and Suisham take turns kicking, it is IMMEDIATELY clear which one of them makes his living that way. Suisham’s kicks come off the tee much faster, straighter, and with more accuracy (as you’d hope, frankly). But Cooley’s a top-notch professional athlete as well, which led me to wonder if just anyone on the team could kick field goals in a pinch.

“I think everyone looks at me like I’m silly that I’d even be trying to do that,” Cooley said, “which I think is funny, because it’s a blast. But it’s not easy to hit a 40-yard field goal, so I don’t know if other guys could do it.”

This time it was Suisham who had the much more specific answer. “Mike Sellers thinks he’s a soccer-style kicker,” Suisham said, “but he needs to just give in and convert to toe-kicking the ball. Reed Doughty’s got potential — not as big a leg as Cooley, but kicks a straighter ball. [Ex-Redskins] Ryan Boschetti used to think he was good, and used to bet me all the time, but he was awful. I used to enjoy our bets, because they worked out in my favor. Hunter Smith could kick a field goal.”

“Let’s put it this way,” Cooley said, after some further reflection. “I think that I’m a better kicker than Shaun could be a tight end.”


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