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Posted at 01:24 PM ET, 08/27/2012

Graham Gano ready for opportunity after besting Neil Rackers in Redskins kicking competition


Graham Gano lines up a practice kick during training camp Aug. 3 (John McDonnell - THE WASHINGTON POST)
Graham Gano found out he’d won his preseason competition with Neil Rackers when the two kickers passed one another Monday morning at the Washington Redskins’ training facility.

Rackers was headed out after he was released by the Redskins.

“I saw Neil this morning when he was walking out,” Gano said later Monday in the Redskins’ locker room. “We had a good little talk…. He was a big professional about it. He wished me the best of luck this year. He said he’s pulling for me to do well. He’s a great guy.”

Gano said he hasn’t been given any assurances by the team’s coaches that he would be the club’s kicker entering the regular season. The Redskins still could sign another kicker. Billy Cundiff, for example, became available when he was released by the Ravens Sunday.

“I don’t really focus on that,” Gano said. “I haven’t talked to Coach about it or anything. I just feel blessed to have this opportunity to be on this team. I’m just preparing like it’s another week.”

But Gano has outlasted the challenge from Rackers.

“I’m excited to have the opportunity,” Gano said. “It was a good competition between Neil and I in the practices. We didn’t get as many field goals as we would have hoped for in the preseason. Neil is a true professional about everything. He’s handled himself as a professional this whole time. It was good to have him here.”

Gano hasn’t attempted a field goal during the Redskins’ three preseason games. Rackers made one of two field goal tries.

“I think every day Neil and I went out, we knew practice was going to play a key role in it,” Gano said. “We hoped for more opportunities in the games…. We’ve kicked a lot in practice over the offseason and the preseason. I’m not sure what played into their decision. I think we both did well…. We thought it was going to come down to the last week but it was the coaches’ decision.”

The Redskins signed Rackers in April to compete with Gano for the kicking job. Rackers made 32 of 38 field goal attempts for the Houston Texans last season and connected on 80 percent of his tries in a dozen NFL seasons for the Cincinnati Bengals, Arizona Cardinals and Texans.

Gano made 31 of 41 field goal attempts last season for the Redskins. He had a league-high five field goal attempts blocked. Redskins special teams standout Lorenzo Alexander said during training camp that the five blocked field goals were the fault of Gano’s blockers, not Gano.

“I feel like I’ve improved for sure,” Gano said Monday. “I think I’m more mature as a kicker in this league. I feel like I did a good job last year. But I’m just looking to improve this year and keep getting better…. I think the more and more you play, the more mature you’re going to get, the more confident you’re going to be in your play.”

The competition between Gano and Rackers was friendly.

“These days are always tough,” Gano said. “You make friendships with the guys, a ton of guys throughout the preseason. To see them let go, it’s really hard. I’m sure he’ll get an opportunity somewhere. He’s a great kicker. You wish that we could both be here all year long but you know that’s just the business. It’s tough and I’m just happy I get the opportunity to be here.”

By  |  01:24 PM ET, 08/27/2012

 
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