Archive for November, 2010
Four former 49ers, including former owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr., and three former Raiders, led by wide receiver Tim Brown, are among 26 semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2011 announced Sunday.
Nominated along with DeBartolo are former 49ers running back Roger Craig – who won Super Bowls with San Francisco in 1985, ‘89 and ‘90 – linebacker Charles Haley (two rings with S.F.) and cornerback Deion Sanders (one ring with the 49ers).
Joining Brown among former Raiders are cornerback Lester Hayes and punter Ray Guy.
Others include top receivers Cris Carter and Andre Reed, tight end Shannon Sharpe, offensive linemen Willie Roaf and Dermontti Dawson, defensive linemen/linebackers Chris Doleman and Kevin Greene, defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, defensive end Richard Dent (who played two games for the 49ers in 1994), cornerback Aeneas Williams, former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, former Browns and Ravens owner Art Modell, former Giants general manager George Young, former Cardinals and Chargers coach Don Coryell, and NFL Films originator Ed Sabol.
The list will be cut to 17, including senior committee nominees Chris Hanburger, a Redskins linebacker (1965-78), and Les Richter, a Rams linebacker (1954-62) who went to Cal. Four to seven enshrinees – and no more than five modern-day nominees – will be announced Feb. 5.
Athens, GA – University of Georgia junior Drew Butler has been named an ESPN Academic All-American as selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
Butler, a 6-2, 207-pound punter from Duluth, Ga., becomes just the seventh Bulldog in school history to be named both an All-American and an Academic All-American during their Georgia career. He is the first one to accomplish this feat since offensive lineman Jon Stinchcomb in 2002.
Butler carries a 3.58 grade point average (GPA) in Telecommunication Arts. This season, he is averaging 45.0 yards on 43 punts as the Bulldogs rank third nationally in Net Punting. Last year, Butler was a consensus All-American and the Ray Guy Award winner as the nation’s top punter. He is one of the finalists for the 2010 Ray Guy Award too. Butler owns a career punting average of 46.4 which is on pace to be a school record.
Bulter joins an exclusive Bulldog club of All-Americans who have been honored for their performance on the field and in the classroom. They are: Frank Tarkenton, QB (1960), Lynn Hughes, S (1966), Bill Stanfill, DT (1968), Terry Hoage, ROV (1982 & 1983), Matt Stinchcomb, OT (1997 & 1998) and Jon Stinchcomb, OT (2002).
The 25 members of the 2010 ESPN Academic All-American first team have an average GPA of 3.79. To be eligible for the ESPN Academic All-America football team, a student-athlete must be named to the ESPN Academic All-District team, carry a cumulative GPA of at least 3.3 on a 4.0 scale and be either a starter or a key reserve on his team. The country is divided into eight districts and those winners are then on a national ballot.
NASHVILLE – It is an odd existence, being a place kicker in the NFL, simultaneously part of a team and removed from it. A week’s worth of practice is spent in something bordering on solitary confinement, jogging from field to field with the punter, who holds the kicks, and the long snapper, who hikes the ball. Yet when the game is to be decided, all eyes fall your way.
So Graham Gano found himself walking onto LP Field Sunday afternoon, one chance to win the game already having passed him by, another staring him directly in the face. The wind was swirling a bit. The trick: Prevent the same from happening in his head.
“I was thinking, ‘You know, I still wish I could have another chance at that 52-[yarder] vs. Houston,’ ” Gano said.
By Sunday afternoon, that kick – a miss that came after Texans Coach Gary Kubiak iced Gano with a timeout way back on Sept. 19 – didn’t matter for the Washington Redskins. What did was that Gano stepped up to the 48-yarder he faced in overtime, cleared his mind, said his prayers and drilled the kick through the uprights, the winning points in a 19-16 victory over the Tennessee Titans. The field goal was Gano’s fourth of the day, and it rendered his misses irrelevant.
“Before I even looked up, I knew it was going in,” Gano said. “It feels like kicking a pillow, really. You don’t even feel it.”
What Gano does feel is the instability that goes along with his profession. He is only 23, and this is his first full NFL season. He was the top college kicker in the country at Florida State in 2008, but he did not make the Baltimore Ravens the following fall, and he was cut. He kicked in the United Football League, and when the Redskins decided they had had enough of Shaun Suisham last December, they brought in Gano for the tail end of a season gone bad.
So he is kind of learning the NFL as he goes. He made all four of his field goals at the end of last season, and he is enduring something of an uneven campaign this year at just 15 of 20 coming into Sunday. In October, he missed field goals in three consecutive games. Yet Coach Mike Shanahan never publicly questioned him, and Gano remained steadfastly confident.
“I’ve held for a couple of the best to ever play,” said Redskins punter Hunter Smith, referring to Indianapolis kicker Adam Vinatieri and former Colt Mike Vanderjagt. “I don’t know that a lot of people get it around here, in our reality, but good kickers – great kickers – miss lots of kicks. They just do. They miss game-winners. They miss kicks to push it into overtime. It just happens.
“But if you stick beside a guy, and give them some time to develop, they’ll still miss kicks down the road, but what you’re trying to find is someone who would be consistent 85 percent of the time. That’s what we’ve got here. Graham is going to be really, really good.”
Gano’s day, though, only ended perfectly. After he made a 19-yarder in the second quarter, he lined up for a 51-yarder – with the wind – on the final play of the first half. The kick never had a chance, sailing wide left. Gano still has not converted a field goal longer than 49 yards.
“Any time a ball goes that far left, it’s probably on me, how I planted,” Gano said.
So, on to the next kick. He calmly made a 40-yarder in the third quarter and tied the game at 16 in the fourth with a kick from 42 yards out. Then, after the Redskins moved the ball to the Titans 27, quarterback Donovan McNabb spiked it. Gano had his first chance to win the game, and though the snap from center Nick Sundberg was low, Smith held it in place.
“That was a nasty wind,” Sundberg said. “The ball was about two-thirds of the way there, and I was like, ‘It’s in,’ and then all of a sudden it was like, ‘Whoop.’ ” The ball died, falling well short of the crossbar.
“But we have to have a real short memory,” Sundberg said. “If you start dwelling on previous things, that’s when you start going downhill.”
So when Gano got his next chance, he gathered himself. A devout Christian, he said he frequently talks to God before his kicks. And when the game-winner – his second in overtime this year – sailed through, he pointed directly to the sky.
“He’ll be there, absolutely, one of the good ones,” Smith said. “Especially for 23 years old, there aren’t a lot of people like that.”
CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals have signed former Ohio State University kicker Aaron Pettrey to replace another former Buckeye.
Kicker Mike Nugent was lost for the season after tearing a knee ligament during a successful onside kick play in the closing minutes of Sunday’s 23-17 loss at Indianapolis. The Bengals signed the sixth-year pro from Ohio State in April.
Pettrey joined Carolina in April as a college free agent, was waived, then played in one pre-season game for Detroit. He missed a 42-yard field goal try and made a convert.