The Redskins' 2000 team is mostly remembered as a Super Bowl contender faltering down the stretch. Perhaps more than anything else, it was field goal kicking that cost that Redskins team a possible playoff berth.
When Brett Conway was injured early on in 2000, the Redskins struggled to find a replacement. Despite going through Michael Husted, Scott Bentley, Kris Heppner and Eddie Murray, the team could not find a consistent kicker that year. It cost them at least two wins.
That's one example of why place kicking is so important in football.
So far in the 2005 season, field goals and extra points have been integral in all three of the Redskins' wins so far.
In Week 1, John Hall connected on three field goals to help the Redskins win 9-7 over Chicago. Nick Novak's extra point helped Washington to a 14-13 come-from-behind win over Dallas in Week 2. And last Sunday, Novak's 39-yard game-winner gave the Redskins a 20-17 victory over Seattle.
Despite the success so far, the Redskins are facing another season with an unstable kicking situation. Only twice in the last six seasons have the Redskins gone through a season with one place kicker the whole year.
John Hall continues to recover from a quad injury and is officially listed as questionable for Sunday's game at Denver. He did not participate in practice on Wednesday.
Given Sunday's game-winning kick, Novak has been a spectacular replacement so far. The Redskins seem committed to getting Hall healthy. Hall is a 9-year veteran while Novak remains an inexperienced rookie, despite his game-winning kick.
For now, the team will keep both Hall and Novak on the roster, head coach Joe Gibbs said.
"It's a strain, because any time you keep two kickers, you have a spot there where you could have a player who could be helping somewhere else," Gibbs said. "It makes it tough. We don't want to do it, but we just have to do it right now. We'll see how far it goes."
Meantime, Novak continues to garner praise for his game-winning kick. In addition to earning a game ball, he was one of the recipients of the team's Parking Spot Awards, given to the top offensive, defensive and special teams player following every game.
Said Gibbs: "Who would think that you could get someone like Nick off the waiver wire and he comes in and helps you win football games. We started him out and his first field goal gets blocked. I was thinking, 'My gosh, we got a young guy in there and this is how it starts out for him. What kind of frame of mind is he going to be in?' But he's had a great attitude."
Novak was grateful for the honor.
"I can park closer to the door now," Novak said, laughing. "But it's just a privilege to be on this team and playing. I'm having fun."
Jokingly asked if the honor meant he had long-term prospects with the Redskins, Novak laughed and replied: "I don't know about that. Maybe for another week. We'll see what happens."
-- INJURY UPDATE: HARRIS QUESTIONABLE
Cornerback Walt Harris did not practice on Wednesday and is listed as questionable on the team's injury report.
Gibbs continues to call the injury "day to day."
"He worked out over the weekend, but didn't do a whole lot," he said. "[The injury] keeps us guessing. We are just in a situation where we have to work through it. It's day to day."
Harris sat out the Seattle game last Sunday. Rookie cornerback Carlos Rogers started in place of Harris.
Safety Pierson Prioleau's hamstring injury has improved to the point that he was able to return to practice on Wednesday. That increases the likelihood that he will be available for this Sunday's game against Denver. Prioleau sat out the Seattle game and is listed as probable.
Also listed as probable: safety Sean Taylor (shoulder), right tackle Jon Jansen (thumb) and linebacker Chris Clemons (knee).
For the Broncos, starting cornerback Champ Bailey (hamstring) is listed as questionable. If he is unable to play, he would likely be replaced by rookie cornerback Domonique Foxworth.
Tight end Stephen Alexander (thigh), cornerback Darrent Williams (ankle) and safety Nick Ferguson (knee) are probable.
-- ROSTER MOVE
As expected, the Redskins re-signed cornerback Dimitri Patterson to the team's practice squad on Wednesday. Due to Harris's injury, Patterson was activated for last Sunday's game against Seattle, but he did not play in the game.
Patterson was released on Monday after the team re-signed linebacker Zak Keasey.
-- TERPS AROUND THE LEAGUE
Novak is one of several former Maryland Terrapins establishing themselves at the NFL level this season.
In Denver, rookie cornerback Domonique Foxworth logged a team-leading six tackles and one interception in the Broncos' 20-7 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars last Sunday. Foxworth's 23-yard return after his interception helped set up a Jason Elam field goal that extended the Broncos' lead to 17-7.
"Domonique's a good guy, a real smart player," Novak said. "It'll be nice to play against him. I know he'll bring his best game."
San Diego's rookie linebacker Shawne Merriman, the Chargers' first-round draft pick last April, is another former Terrapin playing in the NFL. Of course, rookie wide receiver Rich Parson, another Maryland grad, is on the Redskins' practice squad.
-- GIBBS AND SHANAHAN
Between them, Gibbs and Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan have five Super Bowl championships on their resume. Sunday's game will be the first time they will have faced off against each other.
Gibbs commented that he does not know Shanahan well despite their respective success on the gridiron.
"I've seen him at the league meetings and we've talked on the phone a couple of times," he said. "Up here, it just seems like you don't fraternize with the coaches you go up against."
Then Gibbs joked: "Maybe they're all friends and they just don't like me."
Gibbs has a lot of respect for Shanahan. And vice versa.
"They have won two Super Bowls and Mike Shanahan has proven over time that he can do it with any number of players," Gibbs said.
Said Shanahan: "I've always had the utmost respect for Joe Gibbs--not only for the Super Bowls he has won, but also because of the way he handles himself. From a coaching perspective, I think he handles himself like a pro's pro. When he had all of his Super Bowl success, he was very humble. I've always admired him."