Element of surprise key to onside kicks

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Of course, at the end of close games, the “hands squad” is always up front when an onside kick is likely.

The current popular style is the high bouncer.

“I’m pretty positive most kickers use it where you want to get the high bounce,” says Jets kicker Nick Folk. “I think it’s because you can hit it more consistently than you do the dribbler. You can pretty much tell an area where you can hit each time to get it up high.

“Once a week, I maybe just hit a couple to make sure we practice it. It’s always in there for the end of the game, so you work on it for the guys to feel comfortable and familiar with it.”

How about getting it “in there” for earlier in the game?

“That play’s existed for quite a while,” Rosburg says. “I don’t think just because the Saints pulled it off that it’s going to start a trend. The risk/reward really hasn’t changed. People have run the onside kick, that was just the biggest one because it’s on the biggest stage.”

But Folk is more optimistic, while recognizing the hazards.

“I think it will happen more earlier,” he says. “Guys are more creative with the way they hide the kick, and as it becomes more disguisable, you will see more of them.

“You do it to give your team a lift and an edge, but I think it still scares a lot of teams because the success rate is not high and you give up the ball in your area.”

Ultimately, whoever calls for the onside kick _ it varies from team to team, but you can bet a Bill Belichick or Jeff Fisher is directly involved in the decision _ understands the impact success or failure can have on the outcome.

“It’s available and you see it,” Titans coach Fisher says. “We prepare for it on every kickoff. Coaches are going to look and scheme things up and see if they can have an opportunity to gain possession. We had three or four against the Colts four or five years ago. There were other reasons for that, but it is an effective tool. Clearly the Saints felt like they had an opportunity based on what they had seen.”

In a way, the Saints also might have been as desperate as those teams who must try the onside kick in a game’s dying moments.

“It’s sort of like a sneak attack, and the Saints made it famous last year,” Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff says. “I think in the Saints‘ situation, if you ask them, I’d be willing to bet you that they felt to win that game … somehow, they needed to steal a possession. They had to run a fake, get a pick, do something to get an extra possession to beat that football team.”

Westhoff, one of the NFL’s deans of special teams, also believes the kicking team has an edge aside from the element of surprise.

“When those guys are flying at you, it’s easier said than done to make that play,” he says of players on the receiving team trying to field the kick. “Consequently, if you have the guts to try it, and you get a good kick, the odds are way in your favor that you’re going to recover it.

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