<
>

Janikowski finding 'trust' with holder King

8/8/2014

NAPA, Calif. – The moment Shane Lechler left the Oakland Raiders for the Houston Texans last year, long snapper Jon Condo knew Sebastian Janikowski would have a “down” season.

Even if he was coming off his best season.

The only holder Janikowski had known since entering the NFL as a first-round draft pick in 2000 was headed to the Houston Texans, and the place-kicker known as "SeaBass" had not handled change well in his career. As least, that’s what Condo found.

Condo took note that in two of Janikowski’s worst field-goal kicking seasons in terms of misses, the Raiders’ all-time leading scorer dealt with foreign territory. Janikowski missed 10 field-goal attempts in his rookie season and nine in 2007, Condo’s first year as the long snapper.

So with his security blanket gone to Houston and a newbie taking over Lechler’s holding duties in Marquette King, it made sense that Janikowski would struggle again.

Indeed, a year after converting a career-high 91.2 percent (31 of 34, with misses coming from 51, 61 and 64 yards), Janikowski missed nine field-goal attempts in 2013.

“Bass, he’s mentally tough and all that,” Condo said, “but it’s a comfort thing and it’s a trust thing.”

Janikowski, who signed a four-year contract extension last summer, still has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, and much of the blame last season fell on King, who grew weary of the talk. Even a few weeks back, on the day the Raiders reported to training camp, King said he could “not really remember” when asked about the purported issues between himself and Janikowski.

Janikowski made just 70 percent (21 of 30) of his field goals in his first year with King as his holder after converting 89.9 percent (62 of 69) in his previous two seasons with Lechler holding. The left-footed Janikowski even missed two attempts from inside 40 yards last season, a distance from which he had only missed one kick since 2007.

The way Condo put it, all it would take to send his kicker down a doubtful path would be just one bad hold from King. Even if everything else went perfect the rest of the game.

Condo’s advice? “Trust yourself,” he said was his counsel to Janikowski. “Trust your steps.”

To the surprise of many at 1220 Harbor Bay Parkway, Janikowski showed up two months early this offseason to get in extra work with King. Two weeks into training camp, and before the Raiders’ exhibition opener against the Minnesota Vikings on Friday night, the two seem to be connecting.

“Timing,” Janikowski told Associated Press, when asked what the issue was with King in 2013. “Our timing was off. Marquette, me and Condo, we hadn’t worked much … just timing, the confidence. Just the trust.

“You stay with the same guy for (13) years, the trust is there. You don’t have to think about it going on the field.”

And now?

“It’s much better,” Janikowski said. “Marquette’s been working his (behind) off. He’s holding every day -- 50, 100 times -- so hopefully it shows up on the field.”

New assistant special teams coach Chris Boniol, himself a former NFL kicker, has helped bridge the gap between kicker and holder.

“Chris has a way of being able to relate to those guys and talk to them on a level where they can understand what he’s trying to get accomplished,” said coach Dennis Allen. “To (Janikowski’s) credit, he’s taken to all of that and done everything that we’ve asked him to do.”

Janikowski, 36, also holds personal goals.

He is within striking distance of the NFL record for most field goals of at least 50 yards -- Jason Hanson had 52 for the Detroit Lions from 1992 through 2012; Janikowski has 45.

And after tying the record for longest field goal with that 63-yarder in Denver in 2011, the Broncos’ Matt Prater booted a 64-yarder last season to set a new standard.

“It’s a challenge,” Janikowski said.

Though maybe not as challenging as King attempting to truly break into the inner sanctum of Janikowski, who has twin girls, and Condo, who became a father seven months ago.

“Hey, you want to hang out?” Condo said he told King. “You’ve got to have a kid.”

The 25-year-old King’s response, per Condo: “What if I just got a dog?”

Condo laughed.

“The relationship is starting to develop a little bit,” he said. “The trust factor, so far in camp, we have a good rhythm going right now.”