It doesn’t quite have the intrigue of Grossman vs. Beck, but another key position battle finally began Thursday when 11th-year veteran Shayne Graham was permitted to begin dueling with Graham Gano for place-kicking duties.
Over the next month of training camp and the preseason, the two kickers will go toe to toe, trying to win the job, which has been laid out in a straight-forward manner, Graham said.
“A competition, it is what it is: You perform better and you get the job,” said Graham, whose career field goal accuracy is 86 percent, third-highest in NFL history. Gano “and I get a long great, so really, we’re just looking to do our best, and the better man wins, which is how it should be. We both understand what it’s like. We’re grown-ups and being competitors. We know that two of us walk in, one of us walks out. It is what it is, but I think we’re both looking forward to it.”
Gano has expressed a similar outlook, saying, “I welcome the competition. It only makes you better.”
Mike Shanahan has yet to say how he will divide kicking duties in games, but the two will alternate throughout practice and “will get their fair share” of opportunities, the coach says.
Graham, who last season was 12-for-12 while kicking for New England, calls the audition with the Redskins an ideal situation for him – one of the biggest reasons being he is roughly four hours away from where he grew up in Pulaski County.
“I’ve been excited to be here,” the Virginia Tech product said. “I grew up locally, and so it’s been kind of nice to be close to where my family is, and it’s a good opportunity for me to hopefully be here and be a part of the team. I’ve heard a lot of good things about the organization, so now it’s nice to be a part of it and see for myself.”
Graham, who wasn’t signed until Monday, spent the offseason training and waiting for the end of the NFL lockout and describes the time as both beneficial and frustrating.
“I actually got a lot of good work in because it was on my pace and my schedule, which was maybe more than OTAs,” the kicker said. “But I also was able to get some good relaxation and was able to plan things with my family better. Because I didn’t have a team, that was frustrating. And not having that set schedule a little bit, because I like that. But it gave me a little more discipline a little bit because I had to make my routine on my own.”
Graham spent Monday afternoon, Tuesday and Wednesday watching Gano kick, and finally was permitted to join in the action Thursday afternoon, which brought a wave of relief.
“Any time you’re in a hurry-up-and-wait situation, you have no control over it, but you take it as you can, and do as you told,” Graham said. “But now, I’m definitely ready to see what happens with this now.”