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Chris Cooley Tries His Hand As A Holder

Posted by Matt Terl on May 26, 2010 – 3:18 pm

Two days ago, I devoted 700 words to punter Josh Bidwell‘s trials learning to hold for a left-footed kicker. Today, Bidwell was absent from practice (with his coach’s permission). Now, I’m not saying those two things are connected, but whatever the reason the fact remains: the team was forced to try out some backup holders today. Much of the holding was done by whichever kicker wasn’t kicking, but head coach Mike Shanahan and special teams coach Danny Smith also explored having a Pro Bowler holding for kicks:

Chris Cooley.

“It’s probably the first time I’ve ever been around Chris where he looked a little nervous,” Shanahan said. “Y’know, something he wasn’t comfortable with. I’m not sure if he’s ever done it before. But Chris has got excellent hands; we wanted to take a look in our OTAs, see if he could handle the ball, obviously, as a holder, and I thought he did a good job.”

If Cooley was nervous when the snaps were coming, he was well over it by the time I talked to him about it afterward. “Clearly, I have the best hands on the team,” Cooley said, “so I was invited to be the backup holder. Plus I’m the backup on, I think, every special teams spot. I’m the backup kicker, punter … I’m just a specialist extraordinaire.”

So, I asked, have you been putting in hours to get the timing down and stuff? “Yeah,” Cooley said sarcastically, “this is my first week holding, so have complete faith in me getting the ball down.”

For all that, though, he doesn’t lack confidence. “It’s not that hard,” he said. “I mean, I’d get better at it, but I could do it in a game today.”

Ironically, Cooley’s inexperience offers him a slight advantage over Bidwell in one area: where Bidwell has held for fifteen years but only for right-footed kickers, Cooley has held for about twenty minutes — but he’s been working both sides of the ball since he started. “All I’ve ever learned for holding is both. At the beginning of the week, I started holding for both,” he said. “I just alternated.”

And what did the kickers think of their Pro Bowl holder? “They were 5-for-6 on my kicks,” Cooley said, shrugging. “The only one that missed was from 52 [yards out]. He kinda complained, he said I tilted it too far away from him, but I think it was his fault. Kickers like to blame the holder.”

I asked Cooley if there was something that made holding the ball even more challenging than it looks on TV, but Cooley — not a holder by vocation — has no stake in upholding the mystique of the position. “It’s not that hard,” he said again. “You catch it and put it down.”

Photo is actually from earlier this week, when I assumed Cooley was just holding as a way of amusing himself. Click the image for a MUCH larger version.

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