To be fair, after working on medium field goals and kickoffs Monday and long field goals and PATs Wednesday, this was supposedly Kasay's lightest practice of the week. But the players will tell you: There's easy, and then there's kicker easy. A 15-year veteran and a quintessential good guy, Kasay battled back from serious injuries to kick Carolina all the way to Super Bowl XXXVIII. In 2003, the Panthers won seven games by three points or less, many on the foot of Kasay. Even after his botched kickoff handed the Super Bowl on a silver platter to the Patriots, Kasay stood in front of his locker in Houston, just below an ominous ticking clock, and answered every last question.

So it was just Kasay's dumb luck to be the kicker having a light work day at the camp I visited on the very day I decided to chronicle, minute-by-minute, what exactly, if anything, these guys do at practice. It could have been any kicker on any team, trust me. Later in the day, when I caught up to Kasay on his way to lunch, he seemed neither bothered nor caught off guard by my line of questioning. In fact, he oozed the "Always Positive" message on his T-shirt and clearly seemed to enjoy how his preternatural poise and sense of perspective were royally screwing up my column.

Maybe this is what these guys do during practice: stand around killing grass and thinking up the perfect responses to the question, "What exactly do you do during practice?"

"Listen, I don't try and make a comparison between what I do and the physical rigors other players have to go through," Kasay said. "I'm 35. I can't run, can't jump, can't block, tackle or catch. Obviously there's something different about how I contribute to this game. In training camp guys do make comments about wanting my job all the time, sure. But I'll tell you this: When it's the regular season and it's time to kick a game-winner in the fourth quarter, I don't see any of those same guys rushing in to volunteer for my job then."

I've got no beef with the kickers. Honest. Heck, I grew up with three brothers and a chore-happy dad, so no one respects a guy who can appear to be busy while not doing anything at all more than me. What is disturbing, however, is how in today's vanilla-flavored, everybody-finishes-tied-at-8-8 NFL, the less the kickers do the more important they seem to become. With increased frequency, teams are waging knockdown, drag-out turf wars for 59:59 only to have them decided by the dorky dudes wearing Halloween-costume football uniforms.

So disturbed by this trend, a director of scouting for an AFC team recently scream-whispered into my ear that, "The league should just go ahead and change it's name to the National Field Goal Kickers League." (But that would make it the NFGKL then, wouldn't it?) You wanna see Jon Gruden, Herm Edwards or Marty Schottenheimer go absolutely batty? Just remind them that for all their years of hard work, dedication and study, their collective football fortunes still lie in the tiny, manicured hands of field goal kickers.

Continued...


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