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Chargers' leg men looking for kicks in Mile High City

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Johnny Lightning, Sep 12, 2008.

  1. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

    Feb 7, 2006
    September 11, 2008

    By stereotype, and pretty much by actual size, they're the runts of the litter. Nate Kaeding and Mike Scifres each is an excellent athlete in his own right, but the former is the Chargers' place-kicker and the latter is the punter, so they're naturally the antitheses in a locker room full of Tomlinsons and Merrimans.
    However, there is one place in the National Football League where guys who do what they do can stand a little taller, feel a bit bigger and stronger. A place where they can puff out their chests. A place where they get to show off some power of their own, to “swing away” and deliver their own brands of thunder.
    Which brings our Q&A – and the Chargers – to the subject at hand:
    Nate Kaeding: “There's definitely a mental boost there. Scientific tests probably show that the ball goes farther, but it's also a mental thing. Anybody who plays golf knows it helps if you swing smoother, that with the steady stroke, the ball will go farther whether you're at altitude or not. I kinda like it, though. You can tell the ball goes farther once you get up there.”
    Can't it also work to a kicker's disadvantage, since the ball also can go farther left and right when mis-hit?
    NK: “It accentuates a miss a little bit more. But I love it. I've had a lot of success up there so far (5-for-5 on field goals). I look forward to going up there each year.”
    In Denver, is Norv Turner more liable to expand your range and let you try a field goal from a greater distance than anywhere else?
    NK: “I'd say so. Every game, I get with Norv beforehand and gauge our range for that day, based on what the wind is, how the ball was flying in warm-ups. It generally varies about 5-10 yards. If we're in Denver, the range would probably be extended 5 yards or so. We often use the 35-yard line as the measure, meaning a 53-yard field goal. At Denver, we might expand that (line of scrimmage) to the 40. I'd sure like to try a 58-yarder. The NFL record (63 yards) was tied up there (by Jason Elam in 1998).”
    A kicker must feel like Superman on kickoffs at Invesco.
    NK: “It feels good. I had four touchbacks last year.”
    How does the altitude influence punting?
    Mike Scifres: “The ball does travel a little farther at altitude. I didn't feel I punted as well in Denver as I could, but the numbers still looked different, big. I don't think I turned over one ball in the last two years up there.”
    Turned over?
    MS: “The ball stays in the spiral, pointing down, and doesn't turn over. The ball just kinda gets up there in the air and explodes. When I get up there, I think I try and kick it too hard. I have to remind myself to swing easier and let it fly. Even here, I have to do that. You get into the game and adrenaline's going and you want to kick it as far as you can. You think you have to swing as hard as you can to kick it as hard as you can, and that's not true. The cleaner I swing, the farther the ball will go. Up there, there's just no telling how far it will really go.”
    How much does altitude figure into the aim on a field goal attempt?
    NK: “It doesn't really change. Unless there's a huge wind, I'm going to go right down the middle. The ball may push more in one direction or the other, but I'm always focused on hitting it down the middle. It hasn't really had an effect on moving the ball side to side.”
    What about on kickoffs?
    NK (grinning): “Yeah, I have had a few kicks that have flown a little different, like, slice-draw-slice, where it's going two different directions at once. The longer the ball's in the air, the more it has a chance to do some crazy things.”
    Have you ever talked to the guys who play for the Broncos about it?
    NK: “I've talked to Elam (now with the Atlanta Falcons) a little. A lot of the guys from that area, especially coming out of college, are real defensive about it. Guys coming out of Colorado are alway being asked if they can kick the ball the same when they're not at altitude. It's that big question mark. That's hard. But if you handle it right in your mind, it can be a real benefit, like having another ally helping you out. You make it a positive in your head.”
    MS: “My rookie year, I wanted to see what all the talk was about. Everybody was saying, wait till you get to Denver and get to punt in the thin air. I went out in pregame and really swung away at a couple to see how far they'd go. But I've hit balls the same distance here (in San Diego) as I hit up there. Maybe it's all in your mind.”
    NK: “I've done the same thing. I've gone into that place on kickoffs, like, 'I'm at altitude, I got the wind at my back and I'm going to blast this thing and it's gonna look great on TV.' Then you try to kill it and wind up shanking the ball. It gets you off your game. But it's like the home opener. You go to kick off, the adrenaline's pumping and the crowd's into it and you're out there telling yourself, 'Man, you gotta calm down.' ”
    You've been working in tandem for four years now. (Scifres holds on Kaeding's placement kicks.) How long did it take for you two to work together cohesively?
    NK: “Pretty quick. Mike does such a great job holding and Dave (Binn, the longtime long snapper) is the glue holding it all together. It's a good operation.”
    MS: “My rookie year, I held a bit, but Darren Bennett was here, so I mostly held in practice. I started finding out how Nate likes the ball and started working with Dave on getting it all down. It's all about trust. Dave's so accurate, he could do it in his sleep. Ninety-five percent of the time, he's right on target.”
    Anything else strike you about kicking in Denver?
    MS: “Only that it does get noisy there.”

    By Chris Jenkins

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