The Redskins have two candidates in place for a likely training camp kicker competition (which is always a good time). The incumbent, relatively speaking, is Graham Gano, who kicked 4 field goals in 4 attempts in 4 games with the team last year. Gano is an athlete, a gym rat, and a scotsman.
The challenger is Justin Medlock, signed back in February, and the subject of an in-depth profile by Dan Steinberg a few weeks ago. But one thing that’s not mentioned in the Steinberg profile is that Medlock kicks left-footed. This isn’t a huge problem for Medlock, who has been a successful left-footed kicker his entire life, but it’s presenting something of a hurdle to new punter — and presumptive holder — Josh Bidwell.
“I’ve been holding for fifteen years,” Bidwell says, “through college, high school, and the pros, but I never had to hold for a left-footed guy. It’s coming along, though. It’s definitely awkward and unnatural, but like with everything else, the reps clear everything out for you.”
Awkward and unnatural doesn’t exactly sound encouraging, but Medlock — one of those optimistic West Coast types — claims to be less concerned.
“He’s doing all right,” Medlock says. “He’s actually gotten a lot better since the first mini-camp. I know it probably felt really weird, ’cause it’s his first time, but now he’s gotten a lot better. It’s just gonna get better over time, I think.”
The problem, of course, is that Bidwell can’t just strive for adequacy in this. He’s going to have to be able perform this at the highest level of sports, something that Medlock understands all too well. “He’s GOT to be comfortable,” Medlock says, “because it might look perfect now, but then you get out there during [full special teams practice] and it looks a little different, and then you get the game and it looks a little bit more different. “
And Bidwell has been in the league for more than ten years, so he knows what level he’s got to reach. “You’ve just gotta get to the point where you can do it without thinking, without concentrating really hard,” he says. “Which, when I flip back over for the right-footed kicker, it’s a no-brainer. I could be thinking about my golf game from a week ago. But I’ve really gotta focus and concentrate on that.”
Bidwell lives in Oregon, so he’s had to enlist a somewhat surprising helper to continue to improve his holds during his visits home. “My wife,” Bidwell says. “She played softball in college, so she’s got a real strong arm. She’s ‘snapped’ to me for my entire career, just stands there and throws the ball to me from about 10, 11. She can wing it. And when the kids, we’re just sitting there [practicing holds] so I can get comfortable, because I just really wanna make sure I give both guys their fair shot at making it.”
And therein lies the crux of the issue for Bidwell: if he fails to learn this skill, if he can’t do it by training camp, it’s likely not his position that’s in jeopardy, but Medlock’s. People aren’t going to excuse Medlock for missing kicks just because of Bidwell’s inexperience.
Which means, being completely blunt about it, that Bidwell quite literally holds Medlock’s fate in his hands. “That’s not fair to him,” Bidwell says, “and it’s my responsibility to fix that. So I’m not just working on it when I’m here for a few days. I’m working on it so that when we go to training camp, they don’t know the difference and the left-footed guy’s getting his fair look, and if he wins the job he knows he’s got a viable holder.”
Medlock appreciates the effort — and, in fact, says that the two might be getting together in Oregon to practice when Bidwell travels back home — but sees things slightly differently. “I still need to make the kicks, you know?” he says. “I still need to be ready myself. If I’m ready, I’m ready. He looks like he’s gonna be good.”
Tags: graham gano, josh bidwell, justin medlock, kicker battle
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