Monday, December 31, 2012
From Josh Weinfuss's "Floyd Breaks Out In Finale"
December 31, 2012
Punter Dave Zastudil held off Kansas City’s Dustin Colquitt to earn a spot in the NFL record books Sunday afternoon. With two punts downed inside the 20-yard-line, Zastudil finished with 46 for the season, the most in NFL history. Colquitt, who came into Sunday with 42, had three punts downed inside the 20 against the Denver Broncos.
“Now that it’s official, it feels good,” Zastudil said. “Records like that are a great accomplishment. Thinking about it, you can’t take it for granted.”
Zastudil said he didn’t think about the record very much this week, but knew he was two ahead of Colquitt after last weekend. The 11-year punter deflected much of the praise to his gunners and offensive line, but his teammates, kicker Jay Feely and Mike Leach, who snapped to Zastudil on all 46 record-breaking punts, wouldn’t let him celebrate in peace following the game.
“I’m humbled to be among some great punters,” Zastudil said.
Friday, December 28, 2012
By Zac Jackson
December 27, 2012
To know Phil Dawson is to know class, consistency and professionalism.
To know Phil Dawson is finally going to the Pro Bowl?
It's an overdue reward, an acknowledgement of another sterling individual season amidst some, um, turmoil. There are and have been lots of good kickers in the AFC, and Dawson's been one going back a decade or so. He should have been named to the Pro Bowl team before, but you'll never hear him say that.
You'll never hear him say anything that could come off even a little bit negative or self-centric. He'll say he simply has a job to do, and he does that job very well.
If this Pro Bowl selection is an end point for his career in Cleveland, it's a proper one. The Browns haven't been to the playoffs in a decade and haven't been close in five years, so that's out the window. He's missed one kick all year (it was blocked), gone 6-of-6 on kicks over 50 yards and is as reliable as any kicker on any team while playing on the franchise tag for the second straight year.
We're not supposed to root in this business — for people or for teams or for outcomes — but when it comes to Dawson, the rules can wait until tomorrow. I know him well because I worked for the Browns for almost a decade, and in three different columns since leaving in March of 2010, I've advocated the Browns signing him to a long-term deal.
If the Browns let him walk — or even if he wants to walk — come March, there should be no hard feelings. Just a bunch of thank yous.
For a solid decade, every discussion/list of the best players and best people in the Browns locker room has included Dawson not far from the top. In the macho NFL culture, more often than not the kicker is very much the kicker. With the Browns — and especially since 2006 or so — he's been Phil Dawson, a popular and talented player who happens to be the kicker.
Players love the guy. They love that he's finally going to Hawaii. I'd be willing to guess that Ravens kicker Justin Tucker voted for Dawson for the Pro Bowl, and that says a lot.
In the last 12 hours, Browns past and present have taken to social media to congratulate Dawson. That list includes Derek Anderson, Jason Pinkston and Joshua Cribbs, just to name a few. The magic of 2007 would have never happened without Dawson, who provided signature moments at Baltimore and at home in the blizzard vs. Buffalo, a game that truly was played in a foot of snow.
Dawson kicked the ball that day like he was hitting a 9-iron in the summer sun. He's a proud Texan who just happened to be made for Cleveland.
When Dawson took a visit to Buffalo during his restricted free agent year of 2002 — one that was not only well-earned but very much a part of the negotiating process for all involved parties — he said he felt like he was cheating on his girlfriend. He has great stories about 1999, when he'd see the team bringing in other kickers "by the van load" for workouts, trying to take Dawson's job. No one ever did. The closest he gets to bragging is smiling about that.
Even back during that Buffalo flirtation, he was loyal to a messy Browns organization. He did not know, presumably, that such messiness would become more than just a trend, but all he's ever said about it publicly is that change has been the one constant of his time and that good times are ahead.
He's been absent from much of the last two offseason programs while waiting for some kind of verdict on his contract situation, but he's always come back and refused to discuss it. He's never trashed the team, its methods or its negotiators. He's always just come back and delivered, and his leg has been stronger and better over the last four seasons than it's ever been.
He turns 38 next month and might still have several good years left.
Dawson and I go back to high school, and by that I mean I was a high school kid with family ties to Austin, Texas who lived for the five or six times a year Texas games would be shown on television in Cleveland. Still very much a wide-eyed kid when I started interning with the Browns in 2000, I took the very first opportunity to corner Dawson and tell him that kick he made to beat Virginia ranked ahead in my high-school memory bank of almost every girl I kissed and even a few cameos I made in basketball games that had long been decided.
He deals with yahoos like me and their (our) staggering, slobbering stories of adulation and/or Texas football all the time, and he handles them with a smile and humility.
During the offseason when I worked for the Browns, we'd bring various players in for 15-minute, wide-ranging interviews that would be used across various platforms — website, TV, scoreboard — during the following season. Dawson would stay for 45 minutes, and in that time he'd talk about only wanting to win, to make significant kicks in significant games and how much he'd come to love Cleveland and the city's love for football.
I'd ask him about that kick to beat Virginia, and he'd say it was his best until that first one that beat the Steelers. It's just a shame he never got more of those chances.
I went to the Browns-Redskins game two weeks ago as a fan, amongst a group celebrating my good friend's birthday. We loaded up a bus with coolers and immature 30-somethings dressed in jerseys representing Browns from Bernie Kosar to Colt McCoy, and I searched boxes in my parents' basement until I found my old Texas No. 4 jersey, something I've had since Dawson was kicking for Texas and an XL-sized jersey was actually too big for me instead of too small.
Upon arriving in the stadium parking lots and wandering towards the line for the restroom, I encountered an all too typical group of over-served morons looking for a fight against anyone not wearing Browns colors. One particular meathead went 30 yards out of his way to tell me that Texas fans weren't welcome in Cleveland. I told him it was a Phil Dawson jersey, it was probably older than he was and that he should cool it.
Suprisingly, we were in total agreement.
"Everybody should have a Phil Dawson jersey," meathead said to me. "That dude is just the best."
By Mary Kay Cabot, The Plain Dealer
December 26, 2012
BEREA, Ohio -- Browns left tackle Joe Thomas took one more giant step toward the Hall of Fame with his sixth straight Pro Bowl selection, and kicker Phil Dawson will set foot in the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 14-year career.
Josh Cribbs was selected as a first alternate as both a kick-return specialist and special-teamer, D’Qwell Jackson was named a first alternate at inside linebacker and Alex Mack was selected as a first alternate at center.
“It’s a nice reward after a season of good work,” Thomas said. “It definitely always feels good to be recognized for the hard work that you did during the season, even if you’re not a team that’s making the playoffs.”
Thomas joins Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown (1958-66) as the only Browns selected to the Pro Bowl in each of their first six seasons in the league.
Of the 15 players who have made the Pro Bowl in each of their first six seasons, 13 are in the Hall of Fame, which was one of Thomas’ goals when he was drafted by the Browns with the third overall pick in 2007.
Hall of Famers who made Pro Bowls in each of their first six seasons include Brown, Dick Butkus, Joe Greene, Franco Harris, Barry Sanders, Merlin Olsen, Emmitt Smith and Lawrence Taylor.
“It’s pretty humbling just to be mentioned in the same group with some of those other names,” Thomas said. “It’s guys from all different generations, and they’ve had such phenomenal careers. To be part of that group is pretty special, and it’s pretty humbling just to think about it and just sit back and look at some of those names.”
Thomas hasn’t missed an snap since joining the Browns, starting all 15 games at left tackle this season. The most recent Browns player to be named to six consecutive Pro Bowls was Hall of Fame running back Leroy Kelly (1967-72). Thomas is one of six Browns to earn Pro Bowl honors six or more times, and joins Richmond Webb (Miami Dolphins, 1991-97) as the only NFL offensive linemen since 1970 to be named to the Pro Bowl in each of their first six seasons.
“I feel I’m getting better every year and my best is still yet to come,” Thomas said. “I still feel like I’ve got more in the tank, and hopefully, next year will be better than this year and I’ll keep growing that pattern.”
Dawson, the first Brown to be voted in as a kicker (Lou Groza was selected as a tackle), was grateful to punter Reggie Hodges for starting a Twitter campaign and writing a letter to The Plain Dealer to help get him in.
“To have a friend that’s a teammate like Reggie — to go out of his way to kind of mobilize the fan base and just show that he cared about me and he knew this was a goal of mine — that means a tremendous amount, especially when you consider how rare it is to even have a friend in this business,” Dawson said. “I’m always going to remember Reggie’s role in this and be really appreciative of it.”
Dawson’s 96.6 field-goal percentage (28-of-29) this season leads the AFC, and he’s 6-of-6 on field goals from 50 yards or longer, which is tied for the most in the AFC. He also set a career high with 29 touchbacks this season, surpassing his previous best of 12 in 2008. He beat out Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski and Baltimore’s Justin Tucker.
“I deliberately tried not to know,” Dawson said. “We wanted to watch the [Pro Bowl selection] show with my kids. I had a really good idea what was going on, but it was a pretty priceless moment when we saw the name flash up on the screen. My kids went nuts ’cause my wife went nuts. That makes these 15 years of waiting worth it.”
Dawson is savoring the moment and trying not to think of Sunday’s finale in Pittsburgh as his last in a Browns uniform.
“Obviously, there’s a combination of those [emotions] kind of mixing together, but I’m going to enjoy this tonight,” he said. “Fortunately for me this week, it’s Steelers week, and that’s a big week around here. I’ve come to understand what that game is all about to our fans and our city. So it’s not going to be difficult at all, even with this news, it’s not going to be very difficult to get back to work tomorrow and study those guys and go over to Heinz Field and see if we can get a win.”
Dawson said this moment is in stark contrast to 1998, when he held a draft party coming out of Texas and the phone never rang.
“In a lot of ways, I’m grateful for it because it’s been what’s driven me and pushed me to just keep my head down and just keep plugging away and try to keep getting better, year after year,” he said. “I’m just very grateful that, at least one time in my career, I get to experience this.”
The Pro Bowl will be played Jan. 27 in Honolulu and be televised on WKYC Channel 3 at 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, December 26, 2012
December 24, 2012
By Nick Wagoner
After spending most of the 2012 season attached to the line of scrimmage working as a glorified sixth offensive lineman or set up in the backfield as a de facto fullback, Rams tight end Lance Kendricks has been unleashed in the passing game a bit more in recent weeks.
Never was that more evident than Sunday in Tampa Bay where Kendricks finally got the chance to again show the big play, pass catching promise he showed in the 2011 preseason that had many tabbing him as one of the next stars at the ever-growing position.
When all was said in done in the Rams’ 28-13 win against the Bucs, Kendricks had posted his first career 100-yard game, racking up 119 yards on four catches and posted an 80-yard touchdown catch that set a franchise record for the longest touchdown grab by a tight end.
“Hopefully this is the start of something great,” Kendricks said. “I am excited for the next game and hopefully years to come.”
In many ways, this whole season has been the start of something for Kendricks even if it wasn’t always as obvious in the post-game stat book as it was on Sunday.
Kendricks has proved one of the Rams’ most improved and valuable offensive pieces this year, moving all over the places and providing another stout blocker to a team that has needed his help because of so many mixed and matched offensive lines caused by injuries.
Despite spending so much time helping out blocking, Kendricks patiently waited for the chance to get back into a role as a weapon in the passing game. As a rookie in 2011, Kendricks went through more than his share of the ups and downs that go with your first year in the league.
In training camp, Kendricks said he hoped to wipe the memories of some drops and some loss in confidence away this season. According to teammates such as defensive end Chris Long, he’s seen plenty of that growth this year.
“He’s such a good player,” Long said. “I really enjoy watching him get better and just continue to work and I know there has been some adversity. He has just ignored some of the negative energy he’s gotten and he’s just turned into a positive. He’s worked his (rear) off this year and to get the breaks he’s getting and scoring touchdowns and being a deep threat that can block in the run game too, it’s really good for him.”
The results, even despite limited usage as a receiver, have been quite strong. Although the Rams don’t exactly have a long history of receivers posting big statistics since moving to St. Louis, Kendricks’ 486 receiving yards is now the best total for a tight end since the team relocated in 1995.
Additionally, Kendricks has posted 39 catches, which ranks fourth on the team, and four touchdowns, which is tied with running back Steven Jackson and cornerback Janoris Jenkins for second on the team.
Kendricks’ 80-yard touchdown broke the record for longest touchdown reception by a tight end in franchise history. That record actually stood for 55 years and was a 70-yard grab held by Leon Clarke.
Of course, that record almost didn’t come to fruition because Kendricks found himself searching for help with about 20 yards to go.
“I caught it, I looked and nobody was over there so I just took off running,” Kendricks said. “I noticed they were catching up to me, I started getting tired.”
On Jackson’s touchdown run earlier in the game, Kendricks had actually been hit on his hip, which didn’t help him maintain top speed for the entirety of the run. But from the sideline, the sight of Kendricks trying to finish the run brought some chuckles, at least after it was over.
“I couldn’t really see it,” quarterback Sam Bradford said. “To be honest, I wasn’t really expecting him to score. I was expecting him to get tackled.”
Long did, too.
“I saw the piano jump on his back about the 20,” Long said, laughing.
Kendricks found himself searching for help and got it as receiver Danny Amendola came darting into the picture seemingly out of nowhere.
“I saw Danny coming and I thought ‘OK, Danny is coming, I can stop, take a step back and try to go around him,’” Kendricks said. “That’s what I ended up doing.”
Amendola took out the final two Bucs defenders standing in Kendricks’ way and he finished the run with a dive into the end zone for the score, the first time in his young career he’s scored touchdowns in back to back games.
“I went over to him on the bench and I think he needed some oxygen afterwards,” Bradford said.
Coach Jeff Fisher was proud of Kendricks for finishing the run but also what happened after.
“What I was impressed with was he came right back and went right back in the game,” Fisher said. “Tight ends don’t run, as a rule, as fast as defensive backs or wide receivers so for him to get there with a little help was impressive.”
On a more serious note, the Rams appear to have found something with Kendricks in the passing game, particularly with seam routes down the middle of the field.
Kendricks had a huge catch on the team’s game winning drive at Buffalo on Dec. 9 and a big touchdown grab against Arizona on Nov. 25. Those two plays plus Sunday’s long scoring catch all came on similar play-action passes that fake a handoff to Jackson and allow Kendricks to use his speed and athleticism to stress the defense down the middle.
“That play has been money for us,” Jackson said. “That play has been a great play for us. Lance had a big play like that in Arizona on the same play and we are reaping the benefits of it. He’s doing a good job.”
Even if the play results in Kendricks needing oxygen, his work in 2012 should allow the Rams to breathe easy about their future at a position that’s long craved consistency.
Monday, December 24, 2012
From Josh Weinfuss's "Fitzgerald finally reaches 100"
December 24, 2012
Punter Dave Zastudil set a new single-season NFL record Sunday with his 44th punt downed inside the 20-yard-line.
He tied the old mark of 42 with 1:54 left in the third quarter on a 49-yard boot that was downed at the Bears 1. He broke the record early in the fourth quarter with a 33-yard punt to the Bears 7 and extended it on the Cardinals’ next drive when Devin Hester was tackled at the Bears 8.
“If you’re backed up and you’re punting inside the 50, you just try to do your job,” Zastudil said. “Stats like that, inside the 20, just come with it. Yeah, it’s a cool honor but I’m not happy we didn’t win the game.”
Zastudil entered the game with 38 punts downed inside the 20 and was on pace to finish the season with 44. Earlier Sunday, Kansas City punter Dustin Colquitt tied San Francisco’s Andy Lee, the Giants’ Steve Weatherford and former Cardinal Ben Graham with his 42nd, only to have Zastudil kick past all of them later a few hours later.
“We’ve been playing football in the NFL for 90 years and to do something no one else has done – obviously we’re disappointed in the season and the losses that we’ve had – you have to give him credit for what he’s accomplished,” kicker Jay Feely said. “That’s phenomenal. He’s got a chance next week to put a lot of distance in there, to make it untouchable hopefully.”
December 24, 2012
By Tom Reed
What a kick: Browns kicker Phil Dawson converted a season long 53-yard field goal early in the third quarter. His 13 field goals of 50 yards or longer since 2011 are tied for the most in the NFL. Overall, he is 28-of 29 on field-goal attempts this season.
By Jim Thomas
December 24, 2012
TAMPA, FLA. • Since relocating to St. Louis in 1995, the Rams haven’t been known for stellar tight end play in the passing game. In that 1995 season, Troy Drayton’s 47 catches for 458 yards have stood as highs at that position for the Rams in St. Louis.
With 39 catches and just one game left this season, second-year man Lance Kendricks probably won’t get to Drayton’s 47 catches. But thanks to his 80-yard TD catch Sunday to open the third quarter — the longest reception by a tight end in franchise history — Kendricks has overtaken Drayton in yards.
With four catches for a career-high 119 yards Sunday’s in the Rams’ 28-13 victory over Tampa Bay, Kendricks has 486 yards receiving this season.
“He’s such a good player,” Rams defensive end Chris Long said. “I’ve really enjoyed watching him get better, just continue to work. I know there’s been some adversity, and he just has ignored some of the negative energy (i.e. criticism) he’s gotten. And he’s just turned it into a positive.
“He’s worked his (butt) off this year. To see him get the breaks he’s getting and scoring touchdowns, and being a deep threat who can block, too, in the run game, it really is great for him.”
Although he has kept playing, Kendricks has been slowed by a knee injury since the Nov. 18 loss to the New York Jets. He also took a shot to the hip while blocking on Steven Jackson’s 5-yard touchdown run in the second quarter against Tampa, further limiting his mobility.
Nonetheless, he got no mercy from his teammates after a lumbering finish to the TD.
“I saw the piano jump on his back at like the 20,” Long chuckled.
Quarterback Sam Bradford jumped on the pile as well.
“I went over to him on the bench and I think he needed some oxygen afterwards,” Bradford said.
Kendricks was so much in the clear for most of the run, it was almost as if he wondered — Where is everybody?
“After about 40 yards, I was gassed,” Kendricks confessed.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
By Bob McManaman
December 19, 2012
Chris Gardocki might be a tad biased, but when the former longtime NFL punter was asked Wednesday which punter from the NFC should be named to the Pro Bowl next week, he had only one answer.
"Dave Zastudil, without question," Gardocki, who spent 16 seasons in the league, said from his home in Hilton Head, S.C. "He deserves it, absolutely. Will he get it? I don't know. There's a lot of stuff that goes into who goes to the Pro Bowl and who doesn't.
"But he should get selected. I mean, he's had himself a phenomenal year."
Zastudil, now in his second year as the Cardinals' punter, spent a year and a half out of football recovering from patellar tendon surgery in his left (punting) knee. It was so bad, he wasn't sure if he should retire or attempt a laborious rehab.
"When you're out of the league for that long," Zastudil, 34, said, "sometimes it's pretty tough to get back in."
Zastudil is glad he chose the hard route and decided to work his way back because, entering Sunday's game against the visiting Chicago Bears, the punter is on the verge of setting an NFL record.
After placing a franchise-record six punts inside the 20-yard line in Arizona's 38-10 win over the Detroit Lions, Zastudil needs to drop just five more inside the opponents' red zone to have the most by any punter in a single season.
The record for punts placed inside the 20 is 42 and it's shared by three punters, including the Cardinals' Ben Graham in 2009. Andy Lee of the 49ers also did it (2007), as did Steve Weatherford of the Jets (2010).
"I don't care who you are, that's just damn impressive," Cardinals special-teams coach Kevin Spencer said.
It was Spencer who convinced the Cardinals to give Zastudil a chance last year. The punter had several good seasons with the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns until his knee started to erode and Spencer had a feeling.
"Honest to God, and I'm not trying to sound like a soothsayer or anything," he said, "but I was like, 'Wouldn't it be cool if things would turn out like this, that once he gets healthy, he might have a fresh leg for a man of his age and he could come in and do what he's doing now?'
"He worked his fanny off to get back, but man, it's been satisfying to watch."
Zasdtudil's 46.4 yards-per-punt average this season puts him within striking distance of Graham's 2009 club record (47.0) and although he might get overlooked for Pro Bowl consideration in part because of the Cardinals' 5-9 record, he's been the team's MVP on special teams.
"He has such a strong leg that it gives us more room to run down and get away from whoever is guarding us and be able to make a play on the ball or make a play on the returners," Cardinals special-teams gunner Justin Bethel said.
"It's a dangerous weapon to have. I mean, when a guy can put the ball inside the 20 and make it stay there, it totally flips the field for your team. It's a huge advantage."
Gardocki, who retired following the 2006 season after punting for the Bears, Colts, Browns and Steelers, has played a big hand in Zastudil's comeback. Spencer, a longtime friend and Gardocki's former coach in Pittsburgh, invited him to work with Zastudil during training camp in Flagstaff.
It also helped that Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt was once Gardocki's special-teams coach with the Browns.
"I would do anything for those guys," Gardocki said. "They're great people. But so is David. I got to know him when we were division rivals and we used to talk a lot and we became friends."
The two spent about three weeks together in Flagstaff and to this day, they talk on the phone at least once a week.
"It's been so cool to get feedback from him," Zastudil said. "I've never had a guy I could do that with. I take what he says, write it down and take it to practice with me and work on it.
"I've always had a lot of respect for him and it's been great to bounce ideas off of him. He's been a huge help to me."
Zastudil's play, which has included an NFL-high 98 punts for a league-most 4,546 yards, certainly has the full attention of Bears head coach Lovie Smith. During a conference call with Arizona reporters on Wednesday, Smith said that the special-teams matchup with the Cardinals will probably be the key to Sunday's outcome.
"It's a big challenge," Smith said. "There's a lot of different matchups we have, but that may be the most important matchup, just special teams vs. special teams."
The Bears and Cardinals have two of the game's elite punt returners, Devin Hester and Patrick Peterson and although neither has taken one back for a touchdown yet this season, both are capable of doing so on any given punt.
"I know that (long snapper) Mike Leach and (kicker) Jay Feely and I always feel every game comes down to special teams," Zastudil said. "Field position is so crucial and I know I'm going to be punting to a great returner, but we're excited for this challenge."
Zastudil, though, is just excited to still be punting in the NFL. Spencer admittedly wasn't completely sure Zastudil could make it back. Neither was Zastudil.
"I was just blessed the coaching staff here gave me a chance to play again," he said. "But I knew I had to earn it."
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
By Ryan Ruiz
December 19, 2012
After yesterday’s loss to the Washington Redskins, Cleveland Browns veteran kicker Phil Dawson is now 26 of 27 on the season. Dawson also has 28 extra points on the season and has not converted just one due to a mishandled snap. Cleveland would be stupid not to re-sign the 37 year old.
Through fourteen games, the former Texas Longhorn has missed only one field goal attempt and it was partially blocked anyways. In his career, Dawson has made 302 field goals, good for 906 points. When adding his 349 point afters, Dawson has scored 1,255 total points in his impressive career. Dawson is among the franchise's elite in points scored, ranked 3rd. So why again are the Browns going to let him walk away?
With no question in my mind, Dawson is the best bad weather kicker in the history of the NFL. In Cleveland on the shores of Lake Erie, it is cold and windy. Cleveland Browns Stadium is arguably one of the worst places to kick. Yet, over and over again, Dawson navigates the swirling winds and finds the uprights with ease. Over the years, Dawson has single-handedly won football games for the Browns.
Although there are many holes and needs to fill this off-season, owner Jimmy Haslam must make it a priority to keep Dawson in brown and orange. The only exception to the rule is if Dawson retires.
Through 13 seasons, the Texas native has become a pro’s pro. Dawson gives back to the community and is a huge leader off the field. Regardless of age, no. 4 belongs in Cleveland and deserves to retire a Cleveland Brown.
As the new ownership surges forward and competitive football is played, there isn’t any other player on the team that deserves to be a part of a Super Bowl run than Dawson.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
By Kent Somers
December 17, 2012
It was easy to overlook punter Dave Zastudil’s performance in Sunday’s victory over the Lions, because there were a lot more glamorous things to discuss than punting.
The Cardinals won for the first time since Sept. 30. They returned two interceptions for touchdowns and another set up a score. They recovered a muffed punt that led to another touchdown.
But Zastudil played a key part in the 38-10 victory. He punted nine times (yep, that offense still needs work), and six of them were downed inside the Lions’ 20. That’s a Cardinals franchise record.
Let’s take a look at Zastudil’s punts and how they helped the Cardinals win.
1. Zastudil hits a 29-yarder that Stefan Logan fair catches at the 9. The Lions don’t gain a first down, and after a punt, the Cardinals take over at their 43. That favorable field position can be traced directly to Zastudil’s punt. Ryan Lindley’s pass on first down was intercepted, but Zastudil did his job.
2. Zastudil hits a 55-yarder that Logan fair catches at his 20. The defense again holds, and the Cardinals take over at their 38. Again, the offense does nothing with the field position.
3. Zastudil punts 46 yards to the Lions 12. The Cardinals down the ball there but an unnecessary roughness penalty on Michael Adams gives the Lions 15 more yards. Not Zastudil’s fault, obviously.
4. Zastudil hits a 47-yarder to the Detroit 17. Logan muffs the punt because Adams shoves a blocker into him. Adams recovers at the 5. Adams doesn’t have a chance to make that play if Zastudil doesn’t hit a good punt that pinned Logan near the sideline. The Cardinals scored their first touchdown on the next play. Credit can be traced back to Zastudil.
5. Zastudil punts 51 yards to the Detroit 7. Justin Bethel stops Logan for no gain at the Lions 7. On first down, Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford’s pass attempt to Calvin Johnson is intercepted by Patrick Peterson, who returns it 31 yards to the Lions 3. The Cardinals score a touchdown to take their first lead. Again, partial credit for the score can be traced back to Zastudil.
6. Zastudil’s 28-yard punt is fair caught by Logan at the 8. The Lions don’t gain a first down, and the Cardinals next possession starts at the Detroit 49. It goes nowhere, but, again, Zastudil and the defense combined to give the offense great field position.
7. Zastudil makes his only mistake in 9 attempts, launching one 49 yards to the Lions end zone. The defense holds.
8. Zastudil hits a 54-yarder that Logan fair catches at the 13. The Lions drive to the Cardinals 4 and Greg Toler then returns an interception 102 yards for a touchdown.
9. Zastudil punts 39 yards to the Detroit 24. The ball goes out of bounds, but hardly anyone cares. The Cardinals are ahead 38-10, with Zastudil playing a big role in the victory.
In all, Zastudil averaged 44.2 yards a kick and had a net average of 42, well above the Cardinals’ weekly goal of 38.
Friday, December 14, 2012
Phil Dawson has never made it to the Pro Bowl in his 14 seasons with the Browns.
December 14, 2012
Go to nfl.com/probowl/ballot to vote. Fan voting counts for one-third of the selection process. As of Wednesday, Dawson was fourth in fan voting, trailing Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski, Baltimore's Justin Tucker and New England's Stephen Gostkowski. Voting ends on Monday.
Browns punter Reggie Hodges emailed this open letter to The Plain Dealer, urging Browns fans to vote for Phil Dawson for the Pro Bowl.
This letter serves to draw attention to the injustice that has taken place in Cleveland since 1999. PHIL DAWSON HAS NEVER BEEN TO THE PRO BOWL!
Currently he is ranked fourth in fan voting. This weekend is the last opportunity to vote for Phil before voting ends Monday. If Dawson does not gain a substantial amount of votes, Browns fans could be left watching the Pittsburgh Steelers or Baltimore Ravens kicker take the spot that could be Phil's. Currently each of those players has more fan votes.
It's hard to believe this, because of the passion Browns fans show every Sunday afternoon. As a player I have seen the signs proclaiming “Dawson for President” . . . fans may not be able to get him into the White House, but they sure can get him to Hawaii.
This year Phil has been vital in all of the Browns victories. Phil ranks first in the AFC in FGs made, FGs made over 50 yards, and most importantly leads the NFL in FG accuracy.
Fans now have an opportunity to show their gratitude for an incredible season. It takes less than a minute to vote; if half the people that fill Browns Stadium on Sunday log on and vote, Phil Dawson will be representing the Browns in the Pro Bowl.
A concerned holder
Monday, December 10, 2012
Browns veteran kicks 300th field goal in win over Chiefs
By MIKE McLAIN
December 10, 2012
CLEVELAND - It was another historic day for Browns kicker Phil Dawson on Sunday as he reached the 300 mark in career field goals.
Dawson, who was good on three-of-three kicks and is now at 302, became the 25th player in NFL history to make 300 field goals with a 23-yarder in the first quarter. He has the best percentage (84.1) among all 25 kickers. Matt Stover, who kicked for the Browns and Ravens, is second at 83.7 percent.
Dawson was admittedly nervous about reaching the milestone. He would have done it last week in Oakland, but he had a short attempt blocked.
"If you'd seen me kicking in pregame you could probably pick it up," Dawson said. "Fortunately, I kind of settled down a little bit. Having that first field goal be a short one I think helped me get a little comfortable, and as the game went situations kept coming and you really start to feel part of the game."
Coach Pat Shurmur was aware of Dawson's nervousness.
"Quite frankly, Phil was nervous about it," Shurmur said. "He said, 'Gosh, every time I've had one of these games it hadn't worked out.' I said, 'Just don't worry about it. It's going to be okay.' "
It was surprising to learn that Dawson was nervous. He has been the picture of calm confidence during 14 seasons with the Browns. He's made a long list of memorable kicks, including a 35-yarder and a 49-yarder in blizzard conditions against the Buffalo Bills in 2007, yet he was nervous about reaching what had become the inevitable 300th.
"I worked a long time to have a chance to get there," he said. "To be right on the doorstep sometimes is worse than being 50 away."
Dawson, who was signed as an undrafted rookie in 1999, has seen each of the Browns' 148 defeats since their return as an expansion team. He's enjoying the ride of the current three-game winning streak.
"I can get used to this," he said. "I caught some heat a couple of months ago saying I feel like we were right on the verge. My timing might have been a little off, but I think we're starting to see what I've been feeling for awhile."
Reaching a milestone during the stretch makes it all the better.
"I'm grateful for all the teammates I've had that have helped me get to that," Dawson said. "Kansas City was coming hard on the field-goal rush. After every field goal I'm picking up three or four guys who are flat on their backs. Those guys never get credit for made field goals."
Thursday, December 06, 2012
December 4, 2012
By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — At first, he had to be shown how to put on shoulder pads. His coaches feared he’d come out of the locker room with his tailbone pad in front. He was just a high school kid who enjoyed flipping burgers and cleaning pools during summers at a country club with no aspirations of one day
playing in the NFL, yet alone starring in it.
There is a certain “aw shucks” quality to Eagles’ kicker Alex Henery. A playground soccer prodigy growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, he never played football until high school, went on to become a folklore legend at Nebraska, where he holds almost every single kicking record and is the powerhouse school’s all-time leading scorer, and now he’s breaking records in the NFL for the Eagles.
If there has been one shining quality to what has been an otherwise dismal season, it’s been Henery.
He’s made an Eagles’ team-record 21-straight field goals. Over the last two seasons, he’s made 38 of his last 39 attempts, and he still punishes himself for missing the 45-yard attempt on his second try of the season, in the opener at Cleveland. Otherwise, he would be a pristine 22 of 22 this season.
Since entering the NFL in 2011, Henery is 46-50 (92-percent), which makes him the second-most accurate kicker in the NFL during that span, behind only Jacksonville’s Josh Scobee (43-46, 93.5-percent).
Henery’s been one of the few—possibly only—All-Pro candidates the Eagles have had this season.
But if you know anything about Henery, it’s typical. He’s always been successful. At everything. Don’t let the “aw shucks” veneer fool you. Underneath the smiling 6-foot-2, 180-pound 25-year old, who looks like he’s 18 with his hat tucked tight over his eyes, lays a row of unseen shark’s teeth.
“Soccer was pretty much my main sport growing up, but no, I didn’t see anything like this coming,” said Henery, who graduated with an engineering degree from Nebraska. “I remember at first, I kicked it like a soccer ball, and hopefully, it went straight. This is kind of weird, because when I decided to go to college, I was actually a walk-on punter at Nebraska. I never even dreamed of playing too much there. None of the walk-ons get a chance to play too much there. It’s worked out.
“I think when you look as a kid at the typical NFL player, that’s not me. I wouldn’t think of myself being an NFL player. You kind of put them up on a pedestal and never think you can really reach that. Here I am today as one of them. I kind of look at it in disbelief as being one of them.”
Henery is—and breaking records.
His first step to the NFL began when then-Omaha Burke High School soccer coach Mike Bailey suggested he try punting and place kicking for the football team . Bailey, who still remains in close contact with Henery, was also the kicking coach for the football team.
“Al was a playground soccer legend coming in; he was among one of the top 25 players in his age group in the region and probably the most natural goal-scorer I’ve seen in my life,” Bailey said. “Al was third in the state in scoring as a freshman, broke his collarbone his sophomore year and led Nebraska in goals his junior and senior years. But Al benefitted from a great situation. Our headfootball coach , Jack Oholendt, knew kicking was a specialized skill.
“He was fine with us doing special teams first. They’d be gone by 4:30 so Al could get to club soccer practice. At first, I just wanted Al to come out and introduce himself to some of the older kids. That’s how we approached it. The technical skill of kicking a football from a soccer ball is a totally different skill set. They had to show Al how to put shoulder pads on. If the older kids didn’t show him, he would have come out with his tailbone pad on in the front.”
At Omaha Burke, Henery’s “wow moment” came the opening game of his sophomore year. In a game against Lincoln High, a snap flew high over Henery’s head. He retrieved the ball, dodged a tackler and somehow managed to punt it 70 yards—with a very generous roll.
Henery nonchalantly returned to the sideline. But Oholendt went crazy.
“That play just blew Coach Old’s mind,” Bailey said. “I remember him saying, ‘Geez, did he just kick it with his left foot?’ Al is right-footed and he kicked a ball 70 yards with his left foot. That’s just instinct for him. But that was probably the first time we saw Al show something. He’s always been his worst critic. Early in soccer, as a goal scorer, you might get 10 chances in a match, and you finish one. That’s a great percentage. With him, Al thought he should have scored five. Al never really golfed before, but he taught himself to golf, and became very good (a nine handicap). He gives meticulous attention to detail to everything he does. Every swing of his leg should be exactly the same. That’s why he’s so good at everything he does.”
Nebraska and the rest of the nation was introduced to Henery his sophomore season there. He had beaten out a senior scholarship kicker, and his first major moment happened against Colorado.
With the game riding on his right leg, Cornhuskers coach Bo Pelini turned to Henery to boot a 57-yarder with 1:50 left to play and the Huskers trailing 31-30. Henery kicked a school-record 57-yard bolt that just caught the inside of the right upright and sent Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium into delirium.
“I think what really did it for Alex was going to [former NFL kicker] Nate Kaeding’s camps, and then working there for him,” Bailey said. “You could see Alex start to invest in the thought he could do something with kicking during the summers when he was at Nebraska. Al is kind of a folk hero in the state of Nebraska, as he should be. He comes from good, grounded parents and he’s a tenacious competitor.”
The 57-yarder in the cold against Colorado put him on the national stage—and eventually caused the Eagles to take notice and select Henery, a kicker, with their second fourth-round pick in the 2011 draft. If you look at the Eagles’ 2011 draft class, Henery, and sixth-round pick Jason Kelce, have been the only impact players selected (1st: Danny Watkins (bust); 2nd: Jaiquawn Jarrett (cut); 3rd: Curtis Marsh (marginal contribution); 4th: Casey Matthews (bust)).
Mary Henery, Alex’s mother, still gets nervous each time her son plays. She didn’t even foresee this, yet she was his first coach, when Alex was 4½ playing soccer a level up with his older brother.
“I just don’t want to see him hurt; he works very hard and he does well, but he has always been driven to do well,” Mary said. “He’s had good coaches that taught him how to control his emotions in pressure situations, and he listens well and incorporates what he’s taught. I get nervous for him. He doesn’t show it, but it’s a challenge to stand in front of all those eyes and make a big kick. No, I didn’t foresee this at all.”
Now Henery is doing commercials during the Big 10 championship game between Nebraska and Wisconsin. He’s a member of the country club where he once cleaned pools and flipped burgers, and is quietly, coolly having an unforgettable season in what has been a forgettable year for the Eagles.
A typical NFL kick takes about 1.2 seconds after the nod. Henery doesn’t think. He turns it over to muscle memory as his personal navigator. Despite the futility of everything around him, Henery will continue to put his blinders up. He’ll tune out the swirling din and he likes the pressure.
“When I go out, I try not to look up and see how far it is,” Henery said. “There is a lot more that goes into this than me, with [long snapper] Jon [Dorenbos] and [holder] Mat [McBriar]. They’ve been great. I want to be placed in a tough situation, and if a kicker didn’t want that, he wouldn’t be any good. I want to be in a situation where I want to play in the Super Bowl and be there and have that pressure on me to win. I have to remain even keeled, and it’s always the next one that matters. I am pretty much a perfectionist.”
Henery has certainly been one near-perfect point this season.
Tuesday, December 04, 2012
By Rodger Sherman
December 2, 2012
A lot of things have gone wrong this season for the Philadelphia Eagles, but the play of Alex Henery has not been one of them. The kicker's 43-yarder to close the first half Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys not only extended the team's lead to 17-10, but also extended his franchise record for consecutive field goals made.
Henery's last miss was came Week 1 against the Cleveland Browns. Since then, he's made 20 straight field goals, the most ever by an Eagles kicker. He's 21-for-22 on the year with a long of 49 and has hit 37-of-38. He has missed an extra point, but other than that, he's been nearly flawless.
This isn't altogether surprising: Henery set a college record for accuracy at Nebraska, hitting 89.5 percent of his kicks for the Cornhuskers earning him a fourth-round pick in 2011 - high for a kicker. He's been worth it, setting a rookie record for accuracy by hitting 24 of his 27 kicks, and his two seasons in the league have been the most accurate by an Eagles kicker ever.
Monday, December 03, 2012
December 2, 2012
By Tom Reed
Dawson record: Phil Dawson set a new career and franchise mark for consecutive field goals, but had his streak of 29 makes snapped when Desmond Bryant deflected a 28-yard attempt late in the third quarter. His run was 13 shy of Mike Vanderjagt's NFL record.
He began the day tied with his old franchise mark of 27 before converting 41- and 35-yard attempts. He said the footing near the end zone was treacherous and members of the line got pushed back, allowing the Raiders to gain penetration for the block.
Dawson was just excited to see the team get the win.
By Terry Pluto, The Plain Dealer
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Final scribbles after the Browns' fourth win of the season:
Phil Dawson kicked two more field goals, running his streak to 29 before a 28-yarder was deflected wide. The NFL record is 42 by Mike Vanderjagt. Dawson said the ground was very muddy for the blockers, and that was why the protection broke down. That probably was true, but I also like how Dawson covered for his linemen.
By Mary Kay Cabot, The Plain Dealer
December 2, 2012
CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Browns punter Reggie Hodges was right. Browns fans should rise up and help catapult kicker Phil Dawson into his first career Pro Bowl.
Currently, Dawson isn't even among the top five vote-getters in fan balloting on NFL.com, which closes Dec 17. Granted, the fan vote accounts for only one-third of the total, but it would certainly go a long way. Players and coaches, who make up the other two-thirds, vote later this month.
But no kicker in the NFL has fared better this season, especially considering the adverse conditions Dawson's had to kick in. He's made all 21 field goals, including a stunning five of 50 yards or more, to lead all NFL kickers in field-goal percentage. An NFL-record three of those 50-plus-yarders came in one game against the Ravens. He's also been perfect on his 20 extra-point attempts.
Dating back to last season, Dawson's made 27 straight field goals, which is a league-high and matches his career best. Also stretching back to last season, he's made 12 kicks of 50 yards or more -- tops in the NFL.
He's equally as proud of his 19 touchbacks and the fact that the Browns are second in the NFL in holding teams to a 20.2-yard kickoff-return average.
And at 37, he keeps getting better with age.
"I've worked extremely hard," he said. "The experiences pay off. I've had great teammates around me that have given me opportunities. Alex Smith, for example, is our wing on field-goal protection, and we put him on our best rush corner each and every week and he takes care of that for me. I'm not the fastest guy to get the kicks off. If you don't have excellent protection, you've got to hurry up the process, and sometimes when you do, you're not as accurate. I can't overstate what a big role he has provided for me being able to be back there, be comfortable, take my time, and the accuracy follows. So it's certainly a team effort, and I'll just continue to work hard and see how good I can get."
Can he get much better than this? Time for a luau.
"It's always fun to prove people wrong," Dallas Clark says. But that's definitely not the motivation."
By MARTIN FENNELLY | The Tampa Tribune
December 2, 2012
He can't remember the last time he wore his Super Bowl ring. Was there a last time?
"Even when I get done, I'm not going to wear it," Bucs tight end Dallas Clark said. "You're in this business to get another one."
Of course, there are the memories, that night in Miami in 2007. They'll seem fresher this afternoon when the Bucs meet the Denver Broncos. Clark will see his friend Peyton Manning. They played together for eight seasons as Indianapolis Colts. Clark caught more than 400 Manning passes, 48 for touchdowns, including playoffs.
"Boy, he made a ton of huge plays for me," Manning said. "… It's always different when you see guys you played with for so many years and practiced with, to think about how many passes I've thrown to Dallas Clark. In practice, in May, in April, in June, just countless repetitions. Dallas was a true workaholic. He and I were always trying to get it just right, but it always paid off for us on Sunday."
"It's definitely something special," Clark said. "It's unique and it's definitely something that as you continue to play and you get down the road and you're done playing, it's one of those things you'll look back on and realize how special a situation we had."
They're not done playing. The Colts released Peyton Manning. They moved on. Dallas Clark smiles at what his friend is doing in Denver. He saw last season how hard Manning worked to recover from a neck injury.
"You knew he was going to surprise some people," Clark said.
Maybe Clark has, too.
"I know I could still play," he said.
The Bucs signed him as a free agent, but who wasn't skeptical that Clark, 33, had anything left after injuries kept bringing him down.
Only now the 10-year pro is coming on. It took a while for Clark to hit his stride, but as defenses increasingly trained their games on Bucs wide receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams, he made his mark. It still seemed as if he'd come from nowhere when he caught the game-winning touchdown in overtime at Carolina two weeks ago.
"There's always that, when you get to a certain point in your career, there are always the naysayers …" Clark said. "It's always fun to prove people wrong. There's nothing wrong with that. But that's definitely not the motivation, the drive. It's your desire to keep playing the game."
"He knows what it takes to get to the top of the mountain," Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said. "And yet he's still a down-to-earth, approachable kind of guy who can give some feedback. I've seen him talking to the younger players. He's a good communicator and that's how he kind of leads by example."
Clark says that all goes back to how it started for him in Indianapolis.
"Peyton, Jeff Saturday, Reggie Wayne, they were just the guys who … you were dumb if you didn't look at those guys when you were a younger player and go, 'Wow, that's how you do this. That's how you last a long time in this league.' That's what I'm trying to be to these guys, taking what I learned there and pass it on."
He wants to set an example on the field — and off it. Back in Iowa, where Clark was a four-sport star, the Dallas Clark Foundation helps raise scholarship funds, oversees a recycling program and runs football camps, anything to give back.
"There are so many things we can do as professional athletes to make an impact on this world," Clark said. "Being a good influence for kids, being a positive role model for kids, helping with foundations. We get on this pedestal because we play this game. It's foolish if you don't do something positive with it."
He'll return to Iowa, where he was raised, when his games are done. Someone mentioned a future in TV, doing NFL games. During the NFL lockout a few years ago, Clark made a cameo on "Criminal Minds," playing a police officer. (A writer on the show is a huge Clark and Colts fan.) But Clark has no more acting in mind, or football work, outside of occasionally hitting his alma mater for an Iowa game.
Mostly, he'll be at Century Farm, the family spread and some other land he has bought. He'll grow corn.
"I'm just going to disappear," Clark said. "Definitely, just that environment, that's what I love. I love working. I love seeing what I've been doing. I like sweating. I like machines."
That's for later.
Dallas Clark smiled.
"I can still catch the ball."
Browns kicker Phil Dawson has made all 21 of his field-goal attempts this season, including five of 50-plus yards.
By Mary Kay Cabot
December 1, 2012
BEREA, Ohio — Punter Reggie Hodges has taken to Twitter to get kicker Phil Dawson into the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 14-year career.
After discovering that the robo-legged Dawson isn't even in the top five among AFC kickers in fan voting for the Pro Bowl on NFL.com, Hodges urged fans on his Twitter account to right the wrong.
"CLEVELAND! @phil_dawson_4 isn't even in the top 5 in the fan votes?? Y'all voted [Peyton] Hillis to Madden cover! Get a real Brown to the Pro-Bowl!!" Hodges wrote.
He also wrote, "The homie @phil_dawson_4 is 21-21 on FG's this season. 5 from 40-49, 5 from 50+! Leads NFL in 50+ FG's made! Is this Pro-Bowl worthy? YEP!"
Dawson, who's made all 21 of his field goals this season and owns the NFL's longest active streak of 27 dating to last season, appreciates the gesture.
"I know he's having a lot of fun with it," Dawson said. "It's obviously something I wouldn't do on my own, so any help you can get is appreciated. We'll see what happens."
Hodges, who punts in the same howling winds and icy rain that Dawson kicks in at Cleveland Browns Stadium, thinks that should be taken into consideration.
"He's been doing it for 14 years, and he's been doing it in the worst conditions," Hodges said. "Browns Stadium is the toughest place in the NFL to kick -- by far. Chicago is a distant second. This place is unbelievable. Late in the year, our field gets chewed up, and through the course of a game, with the rain and snow, it's tough for him to find the right spot to kick off of, and to be 21-of-21 with five over 50 [yards], 5-of-5 from 40 to 49, that's incredible. Nobody's doing that."
The leading vote-getter among fans is Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski, who's made all 19 of his extra points and has missed only one of his 24 field-goal attempts -- a 64-yarder.
"Janikowski is having a great year, but he's kicking in California," Hodges said. "You get a little wind out there -- maybe."
Dawson admitted it would be nice to be recognized after all these years.
"It's not a make-or-break event to feel good about my career, but it's obviously been a goal for a long time," he said. "So to check the box, so to speak, would be meaningful, and with a family of five, free vacations are also a highly sought-after event, so it would be great to experience."
He acknowledged that going against Janikowski adds some intrigue.
"Not necessarily in the context of the Pro Bowl, but each and every week, I don't get an opponent across the line of scrimmage, so I try to compete against the guy I'm going against, and obviously, going against Sebastian is quite a challenge. He's one of the best there is."
Rounding out the top five in fan voting are Baltimore's Justin Tucker, New England's Stephen Gostkowski, Denver's Matt Prater and Pittsburgh's Shaun Suisham.
"Phil hasn't missed a kick all year," said fellow former Texas Longhorn Colt McCoy. "You know that if you get close to the 30, you can take care of the football because you're going to get three points. He's a safety net and he's reliable. Of all the games we've played in this year, the majority of them have been windy or rainy, or some type of weather element, and he's kicked in all of the conditions and done a phenomenal job."
McCoy said if all the kickers were polled, Dawson would be a lock.
"I don't understand why he hasn't made a Pro Bowl yet," McCoy said. "This team's behind him and he deserves it."
Said coach Pat Shurmur: "I think he's been a Pro Bowl-quality kicker for a very long time. I've got a great deal of respect for who he is and what he is as a player. I'm really glad he kicks for us. All of those accolades, he's very deserving of that."
Added Pro Bowler Alex Mack: "You look at his career, he's been incredibly successful, and this season, especially. I'm superstitious. I understand he's done really, really well, and I don't want to jinx him. But he's a true professional, great attitude, smart, he's had a great career and it would be great to see him in Hawaii."
Dawson, who has been given the franchise tag for the second year in a row, knows that anything can happen after the season and that a third straight franchise tag is unlikely due to the sky-high salary. But he won't think about that until the end of the season.
"My focus is on winning a game this Sunday," he said. "If we can go out to Oakland and get a win, I'm gonna feel great about that. All that stuff in this off-season will take care of itself."
His biggest concern is how many pairs of shoes to take to Oakland for the potential flood conditions.
"Honestly, I'm just going to have to show up Sunday and figure out a plan," he said. "The forecasts are all over the place. The consistent thing is, I keep hearing the word, 'torrential.' Where I come from, that means a lot. It may just be one of those fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of days."
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