Kickers and punters get a bad rep in NFL circles because of the nature of their work. More than any other position, their work is about precision, to the point where hitting them almost always leads to a penalty.
They don’t drag sleds, they don’t run routes, and they don’t have to pour over a playbook for hours. But frequently–as they did for the Redskins last year–games come down to the ability, and the confidence, of these disrespected individuals.
But can you blame those that hate? It seems like kicker Graham Gano and long snapper Nick Sundberg spend most of their time at practice doing something like this:
There are more than 100 people on the fields during a given practice, and there are only four people in this photo, including two coaches. The only thing missing from this scene is a tumble weed blowing across the deserted landscape.
I think Gano and Sundberg are closer to a herd of deer in the forest than their teammates. You get the point.
But don’t mistake their independence for apathy. These guys are working out as hard as specialists should.
“A lot of people think we’re lazy,” Gano said after practice. “But there’s a limited amount of kicking you can do in a given practice. We have a lot of drills and stretches that we go through over the course of a practice.”
One of my favorite exercises they did, would be best described as inspired by Riverdance. Unfortunately cameras were forbidden at that point in practice, or I would share the moment.
When not kicking, air kicking, pretending to kick, or stretching (or Riverdancing), the pair participates in special teams activities. Gano has lined up pretending to be long snapper, pretending to be the punter, and throwing the ball back to the Jugs machine after a punt drill. I complimented Gano on his impressive spiral pass, at which point Sundberg stepped in and took credit for his delivery. “That was me,” he said. “I taught him that last year.”
This dynamic duo will make room for one more, as they are set to welcome veteran punter Sav Rocca to the squad. Neither has ever worked with him, but respect him as a fellow specialist.
So maybe our next picture of Gano will have at least five people in the shot.
Tags: graham gano, nick sundberg, special teams, washington redskins
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