Rookie kicker Nick Novak grew up in Virginia, went to college at Maryland and needs no primer on the pressure that will engulf him should he participate in the Washington Redskins' Monday night clash with the Dallas Cowboys. The importance of the game -- and the rivalry -- is not lost on him, and should the game be as closely contended as last year's games, the field goal kickers could play a substantial role in the outcome.
Novak said he was told that he will play Monday barring a game-time determination that veteran kicker John Hall is healthy enough to participate. Hall, who is listed as questionable, has been unable to kick this week because of a right quadriceps strain. But he has had no swelling in his thigh and said he aims to practice by the weekend.
"If I'm going to play, then they're going to have to see me kick," Hall said. "I'm just not sure when that's going to be."
Novak, the leading scorer in ACC history, was signed after winning a kicker competition Tuesday. He has previously been released by Dallas and Chicago.
"They told me I'd be kicking," Novak said. "But you just never know. It's a last-minute thing. I think if John feels good, then he'll be the guy. It's really up to them."
Novak seemed unfazed by the hoopla surrounding the Monday night game, and was adamant that he has produced in the clutch before, including bowl games. His favorite moment was hitting a 46-yard field goal as a redshirt freshman to send a Thursday night game against Georgia Tech into overtime -- Maryland went on for a win that helped crystallize the program's return to prominence -- and he aims to duplicate that reserve Monday night.
"I've been in a lot of big games and done well and risen to the occasion," Novak said. "So I don't think I'll be nervous. It's just another experience, a great opportunity to be successful, and I want to capitalize on the opportunity."
Hall's injury is not considered too severe, and it is conceivable he could be ready to kick again on Oct. 2 against the Seattle Seahawks, which comes after the Redskins' bye week. That might make Novak's tenure brief. However, Hall's problems lingered throughout last season and were easily aggravated, causing the Redskins to sign free agents several times. They hope to avoid that situation in 2005, and no matter the scenario in Washington, coaches and executives around the NFL will be watching Monday night, which would give Novak a unique chance to impress.
Just appearing in an NFL game, let alone one involving the Redskins and the Cowboys, would be thrilling enough for Novak right now.
"This is really a dream come true," Novak said. "It feels like home to be back here. I've got a lot of family here, a lot of close friends. I went to high school in [Charlottesville] Virginia and college in Maryland, so it's great to be back."
Gregg Williams, assistant head coach-defense, indicated there is a good chance that injured safety Ryan Clark (knee) and linebacker Chris Clemons (hamstring) will be able to play Monday. They were upgraded to probable, as was offensive lineman Jon Jansen (broken thumbs). . . . Defensive back Christian Morton was signed off the Redskins' practice squad by Atlanta. Washington signed defensive back Charles Byrd, who was with the team during training camp, to the practice squad.