Name that kicker: A decade of instability for Redskins

Updated: October 11, 2006, 5:59 PM ET
Associated Press

ASHBURN, Va. -- Ethan Albright failed a long snapper's trivia test Wednesday. Asked to name all of the kickers for whom he's snapped since joining the Washington Redskins, he fell short.

"There haven't been that many," Albright began. "Conway one year, John Hall and Nick, right? I guess Jose was here briefly, and Tuthill was here briefly."

Pause.

"There's more than I thought it was," he added.

Yes, indeed. Albright omitted two names, and he's only been here since 2001.

In fact, the Redskins haven't had the same kicker for two full back-to-back seasons since Chip Lohmiller, a steady presence from 1988-94 who helped Joe Gibbs win a Super Bowl during the coach's first time around in Washington. Another injury to Hall and the return of Nick Novak this week mark the latest spin a revolving door that's been in near-constant motion for more than a decade.

"It's not something you want to do," Gibbs said. "We've got a high quality guy there that's one of the best in the league, and he's had leg problems three straight years -- how do you explain that?"

Lohmiller was cut during the 1995 training camp, and the Redskins have since employed Eddie Murray (twice), Scott Blanton, Chris Jacke, David Akers, Cary Blanchard, Brett Conway (twice), Kris Heppner, Michael Husted, Scott Bentley, James Tuthill, Jose Cortez, Hall, Ola Kimrin, Jeff Chandler and Novak as kickers in regular season games.

Novak, who signed for his second tour of duty on Tuesday, had to be re-employed because Hall is injured for the third time in as many years. Hall was supposed to fix the kicking woes once and for all when he signed a five-year, $7.1 million contract as a free agent from the New York Jets in 2003, but he's out for the season with a strained groin and a strained quadriceps.

"I was thinking to myself it would be nice to come back here," said Novak, who will handle kickoffs and field goals in Sunday's game against Tennessee. "For it to actually happen, I'm very excited. I also feel bad for John being injured again."

Gibbs prefers veteran kickers, and he stuck with Hall as long as he possibly could. Few coaches would keep professing faith in a kicker who had four different leg injuries in 2004 and another one last year. By the end of this season, Hall will have missed 30 of 64 games since signing his contract.

Inconsistent kicking helped lead to coach Norv Turner's dismissal in 2000. Gibbs escaped having any losses tied directly to a kicker last year, even though he used untested rookie Novak for five games and had Hall playing at less than full health for the rest of the season. The pair combined to make 17 of 21 field goal attempts.

Hall had surgery in the offseason and thought his leg was finally repaired, but he complained of a tired leg late last week and relinquished kickoff duties during Sunday's game against the New York Giants. He made a 39-yard field goal in the first half but hooked a 42-yarder in the third quarter in the 19-3 loss, complaining of soreness as the game went along.

Apparently, the surgery didn't do the trick

Novak, who played for the University of Maryland and left the school as the ACC's all-time leading scorer, made 5 of 7 attempts during Hall's absence last year, including a winning kick in overtime against Seattle. Both of his misses were blocked.

Novak was cut when Hall was healthy enough to return and later spent five games with the Arizona Cardinals. He was cut by the Cardinals after training camp this year and had auditions with Green Bay and New Orleans.

He went 12-for-12 on Tuesday in a four-way audition, beating Cortez, Tyler Jones and Todd Peterson to win the Redskins job again.

Novak has spent his free time simulating an NFL week. He would practice Wednesday through Friday and then kick on Sunday -- with his brother holding and local kids shagging balls -- as if he were playing a game. Then he would go inside and watch the real games on television.

Gibbs wasn't thrilled about having Novak a year ago. Now the coach is a convert.

"When he was here before, I was holding my breath," Gibbs said. "Here's a young guy, didn't have experience. I was really amazed. Considering we're in this situation, I feel real comfortable with him."<


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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