'K' balls making a difference

Updated: November 15, 2007, 10:21 AM ET
By Marwan Maalouf
The "K" ball may be a factor why NFL punters and kickers are more consistent this season. We've all seen what a slick "K" ball can do if it isn't properly rubbed down before a game when Dallas Cowboys QB Tony Romo mishandled a field goal snap during last year's playoffs. In Romo's case, that may not have even been a "K" ball and could have been a regular game ball. Only a few people will ever know what really happened at that game.

Each team designates an equipment manager who is allowed to rub down the "K" balls with supervision from the officials prior to the start of a game. These balls come right out of the box and must be rubbed down in order to get the slick shine off before the kickers and punters use them. By rubbing the balls down, it allows the punters to first off get a handle on the speedy snap and then punt the ball knowing that it shouldn't slip off the side of their foot. Also there is the hope of making contact with a bigger surface of the football. For the kickers, the equipment manager rubbing down the ball and working it will hopefully soften the leather of the ball and lessen the toughness so it doesn't feel like they're kicking a rock.

Unfortunately for kickers and punters across the league, the work that the equipment managers do on the "K" balls prior to the game depends on the official assigned to supervise the task. Some officials will allow them to really work the "K" ball and others will be very short and the ball will practically come straight from the box. However, the NFL is taking the time during the game to make sure they change the ball to a "K" ball when there is a kicking situation. That in turn may be a reason why kickers and punters all over the NFL are getting more distance in their punts, field goals and kickoffs.