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Tryouts for a Kicker May Be Afoot

By Howard Bryant
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Washington Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs did not rule out the possibility of conducting a tryout this afternoon to find a replacement for struggling place kicker Nick Novak.

Only six weeks ago, the team held a tryout for a kicker. On Oct. 10, the Redskins brought in Todd Peterson, Tyler Jones, Jose Cortez and Novak to compete to replace John Hall, who was placed on the injured reserve list because of injuries to his right groin and quadriceps. Traditionally, tryouts are held on Tuesdays.

Novak won the competition that day, but has struggled. He is 5 for 10 in field goal attempts, including 1 for 3 between 30 and 39 yards. He is 2 for 5 between 40 and 49 yards and 7 for 7 on extra points, but his short kickoffs have been a problem. Gibbs said he had spoken to Novak about his performance.

"It's a matter of us evaluating things. We work hard with Nick, and he's a hard worker," Gibbs said. "But for all of us, Nick will tell you, he needs to be consistent. He has won a game for us and that stuck in my mind. It's a matter of someone who will be productive."

Novak's struggles come just as the most accurate kicker in league history, Mike Vanderjagt, has gone on the market. The agent for Vanderjagt, the longtime Indianapolis kicker who was released yesterday by Dallas after hitting just 13 of 18 field goal attempts with the Cowboys, did not return calls seeking comment.

Although there was no word of a tryout, agents for other kickers said they had faxed information regarding their clients to the club because they believed a tryout would take place. Agents for Cortez and Jones, who was cut by the Redskins in training camp, said they have not been contacted by the team.

Novak's biggest moment with the Redskins came in a wild 22-19 victory over the Cowboys on Nov. 5 when he missed what would have been a game-winning 49-yard field goal with 35 seconds left. After an exchange that began with Troy Vincent blocking a Vanderjagt field goal attempt, Novak nailed a 47-yarder on the last play of the game.

"I think he's being consistent. I think the record is what it is," Gibbs said. "I think the things we like about him is that he gets the ball up high. Nick knows that. You make this many or you miss this many. He's won two games for us in two years here."

Said Novak: "If you let tough times take advantage or get the best of you, you won't last too long in this league. So I'm trying to stay positive because I know it's part of the game and part of kicking. You're going to miss part of the time, but I want this so bad and I want to do well for the Redskins and everyone knows that, and I'm working my tail off and I have no excuses. I just have to be more consistent in my technique. That's it."

The Pressure's On

For weeks, Phillip Daniels has had the same lament: The world is an unfair place, and unfortunately the football world judges defensive ends based on sacks.

Daniels's third-quarter sack of Carolina quarterback Jake Delhomme on Sunday was his first in a month. Daniels had been frustrated by the number of times over the course of the season that he was close to getting to the quarterback but had nothing to show for it.

"We keep getting max-protected against," he said. "People don't see the effort, they only see the sacks. So we have to get the sacks. It's a good feeling when you know you're getting that pressure. Keep fighting. Do your part. It's paying off."

The last time Daniels got to the quarterback was Oct. 22 in a 36-22 loss to Indianapolis. The payoff also was enjoyable for Daniels because of the numerous injuries he's fighting through. In a 27-3 loss at Philadelphia, Daniels suffered a deep bruise to his left forearm. In that game, he aggravated a left wrist injury originally suffered in a 25-22 loss against Tennessee.

The defensive-line push represented the first time since a 36-30 win over Jacksonville that the front four pushed hard upfield and got results.

"The first thing we did was stop the run and we got off the field on third downs," Cornelius Griffin said. "I think we took a big step forward on where we want to go with this defense."

Daniels has three sacks this season, which leads the team. He also was credited with a pass defense and a quarterback hurry.

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