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Archive for Friday, June 22, 2007

K.C. kicking team coming together

New kicker and snapper in the fold, holder Colquitt must learn other side

June 22, 2007

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So a new long snapper from Montreal, a rookie left-footed kicker from California and a somewhat nouveau holder from Tennessee meet on a football field. This isn't the start of a bad joke. It's a description of the strangers who were thrust together to form the central nervous system in Kansas City's field goal unit. And if the Chiefs are to tally treys this season, long snapper J.P. Darche, kicker Justin Medlock and holder Dustin Colquitt had better keep bonding - and relearning their roles.

Compatibility won't happen without a lot of repetition - and probably a few hitches. Darche, a free-agent addition from the Seahawks, is replacing Kendall Gammon, who snapped seven years for the Chiefs. Medlock was a fifth-round draft pick out of UCLA. Colquitt, a third-year player who also is Kansas City's punter, now must be a mirror image of himself when he holds for placements to accommodate the left-footed Medlock.

"The challenges are going to be there," says Bills special teams coach Bobby April, noting the Chiefs' changes. "But they're not unconquerable."

For a while this spring, Colquitt worked both sides, like a switch hitter in baseball. He set up one way for Lawrence Tynes, a righty who was the Chiefs' kicker the past three years, then set up the opposite way for Medlock. Colquitt put down the ball with his left hand for Tynes and with his right hand for Medlock.

"The first week was one of the harder things athletically I've ever had to do," says Colquitt, whose father, Craig, was a punter and holder on two of the Steelers' Super Bowl champion teams.

The Chiefs became convinced it would be too taxing for Colquitt, who never had been a holder until the Chiefs drafted him in 2005, to continue working with both kickers in training camp. Special teams coach Mike Priefer had nothing against Tynes, who was signed as an undrafted rookie, but he really liked Medlock, who he believed was the most technically sound kicker in this year's draft.

Rookie fifth-round pick or former undrafted free agent? Hmmm. On May 22, Tynes was traded to the Giants.

Colquitt's job became less complicated, but he did get confused at least once. The first time the Chiefs attempted a field goal during team drills after Tynes was gone, Colquitt got down on his right knee. Realizing his mistake, he quickly hopped up and turned himself around.

During the Chiefs' off-season workouts, it has been routine for Darche and Colquitt to connect on as many as 100 snaps a day. In training camp, Colquitt also will use a JUGS machine so Darche doesn't wear down. Everything is done precisely, including the placement by Colquitt.

Persnickety might be too strong of a word to describe Medlock, but he does like the ball lined up a certain way: tilted slightly to the left - think of the 10 on a clock - with the laces facing toward Darche or turned a quarter to the right.

Darche, a French Canadian whose initials stand for Jean-Philippe, aptly sums up his and Colquitt's roles. "Obviously, our job is to make life easy for him."

That will help make the Chiefs' kicking game more successful - and not the subject of a punch line.

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