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With Gano Hurt, Redskins to Work Out Kickers


Graham Gano looked back. He looked ahead. He looked back. He looked ahead again.

He might wind up on the injury report with a sprained neck if he continues to do so.

The Redskins kicker came back to Redskins Park late Sunday night to study game tapes from earlier in the season. What, if anything, was different? What would have caused him to miss two short field goals in the team's 17-16 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

He couldn't find much. Maybe his plant foot was a bit too far back. Maybe the cleats he wore to combat the wet turf didn't slide enough and helped cause kicks of 34 and 24 yards to fail.

He only knew this for sure.

"I know a lot of people would think it would break me down but I'm just looking forward to having a good game this week, kicking the ball again in practice, just putting it behind me and having a good game in Dallas," he said.

Some irony there.

It was a 7-6 loss to the Cowboys on the road last year that marked the beginning of the end of Shaun Suisham's tenure with the Redskins and ultimately opened the door for Gano. Suisham missed from 39 yards at the end of the first half and from 50 midway through the fourth quarter, twice failing to extend a 6-0 lead built on his two successful kicks.

The Cowboys scored with 2:41 left on a 10-yard pass from Tony Romo to Patrick Crayton.

Two weeks later, Suisham missed what should have been a game-clinching field goal of 23 yards against the New Orleans Saints with 1:52 left to play. Those points would have extended the Redskins' lead to 33-23 but they never happened. The Saints tied the game just 25 seconds later and won it in overtime.

Goodbye, Suisham. Hello, Gano.

More irony. Kickers have tried field goals 22 times against the Cowboys this season and made 21, with one blocked. If Gano is around to kick against them, perhaps he can share in that good fortune. He has missed 10 field goal tries this season, most in the NFL, and he knows how kickers are judged.

"I wouldn't be surprised if they brought some guys in but as far as I'm concerned I am young and I am learning from every game and I think I'll just keep getting better. I believe I'll be in the league for a long time. I'm just having some growing pains now," he said.

He also has a rib injury that was aggravated in the pileup on the botched extra point attempt at the end of the game. Primarily because of the injury, coach Mike Shanahan said Monday, the club would work out a few kickers. Yet Shanahan stood by Gano, as he has all season.

"If he's full speed, he'll be our kicker this week," Shanahan said.

Gano's conversion rate of 68.8 percent on field goals is the worst in the NFL of any kicker with more than 13 attempts.

He's had a change of holders this season and he works with a first-year long snapper. He is young, at 23. Almost every kicker more accurate than Gano has played for more than one team, some by choice and some because kickers come and go, thrive and then wither, only to repeat the process elsewhere.

David Akers, the four-time Pro Bowler of the Philadelphia Eagles, kicked for the Redskins in 1998. He made two extra points and missed two field goals in his only game, then went on to Philadelphia and a sterling career. He currently leads the NFL in scoring with 126 points and has made 29 of 34 field goals.

Matt Bryant of the Atlanta Falcons ranks second in scoring with 109 points. His resume includes more stops than a delivery truck. The New York Giants, Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the last two seasons with Atlanta.

Jay Feeley? The guy who kicked five field goals and scored on a fake on Sunday for the Arizona Cardinals? Four years with Atlanta, two with the Giants, one with the Dolphins, two with the New York Jets before he joined the Cardinals. He has hit 20 of 22 field goal tries this season.

Nobody wants the kicker to miss. Nobody wants to miss on a kicker. Patience can be an extraordinary virtue when games ride on one narrow foot.

Larry Weisman, an award-winning journalist during 25 years with USA TODAY, writes for and appears nightly on Redskins Nation on Comcast SportsNet. Read his Redskinsblitz blog at and follow him on

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