- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 14, 2004

NFL Notebook

Coaches always preach the importance of special teams. So why, with the exception of the Dallas Cowboys’ Steve Hoffman, does no team have a kicking coach?

Kicking and punting are the critical components of special teams and yet all 32 NFL special teams coaches — the Cowboys also have a special teams coach — are former position players.

“Sometimes coaches think that once a kicker makes a team, he’s good enough and he knows what he’s doing,” said just-retired kicker Mike Hollis, who is in Buffalo’s camp this summer to help its kickers and punters.

“Yes. But he can’t see what a coach who knows him well and knows kicking could see. That’s exactly what I did with Brian [Moorman, the Bills’ punter] a few years ago [when Hollis kicked for the Bills]. After every punt I’d say, ‘You dropped it inside or took a long last step or whatever.’ There are a lot of things right then and there you can hit them with instead of waiting until the film to make a correction. It’s a very specific technique you have to master on a daily basis.”

Wrestler grapples with NFL — Former WWE champion Brock Lesnar, who hasn’t played football since his senior year of high school, is trying to make Minnesota’s roster as a defensive tackle.

Lesnar’s No.69 jersey is a hot seller at camp, but with veterans Chris Hovan, Steve Martin and Billy Lyon and 2003 first-round draft pick Kevin Williams ahead of him on the depth chart, there’s not a lot of playing time to be had for the 27-year-old.

“I wouldn’t really call myself a rookie,” Lesnar said jokingly during the first week at Mankato (Minn.) State. “I’m more like a water boy right now. After 2 days of camp, I felt like I was 60 years old when I woke up this morning.”

Lesnar is 6-foot-3 and 290 pounds and runs 40 yards in 4.75 seconds. But he hasn’t shown much quickness off the snap and might not even make the practice squad.

Worried Priest — Kansas City Pro Bowl running back Priest Holmes discussed retirement during the offseason with coach Dick Vermeil — who knows something about the subject after being out of football for 14 years — before opting to return for an eighth season.

Holmes wasn’t having serious Ricky Williams-type love of the game problems. He was worried about his father, Herman Morris, who’s coordinating Army convoys in Iraq.

“I handled it like I would my own son,” Vermeil said. “Listened to him. Understood. I think I know Priest pretty well. He’s a complex young man. He’s a deep thinker.”

Holmes’ father gets to watch his son play on satellite television on a big screen in a tent set up by the Army. Soldiers suit up in their jerseys and caps.

“I know my dad’s gonna be watching me,” Holmes said. “I want to give him something to see.”

Monday nighters — Only 18 of the 32 teams will appear on this season’s Monday night broadcasts with Arizona (five), Buffalo (four), Detroit, Houston, Jacksonville and New Orleans (three each) going at least three years without being televised to the NFL’s largest regular-season audiences.

Cincinnati is on “Monday Night Football” for the first time in 12 years, two shy of the record set by Tampa Bay from 1984 to 1997. The Oct.25 game against visiting Denver is the Bengals’ first home Monday nighter in 15 years.

“This is the national spotlight, and we’re excited about the opportunity,” said coach Marvin Lewis, whose Bengals went 8-8 last season, tying their best mark in 13 years.

Cincinnati Mayor Charlie Luken is even more thrilled about ABC’s cameras.

“The attention these prime-time games bring to Cincinnati is priceless,” Luken said. “As a community, we look forward to getting Cincinnati rocking on national TV this fall.”

The Cardinals — as was true in 2003 — aren’t on any national telecast. This will be the second time in “MNF“‘s 35 years that no games will be played in California, which says something about the expectations for the 49ers, Chargers and Raiders.

Bad Randy, good Randy — Vikings Pro Bowl receiver Randy Moss normally speaks to the media on the first day of camp. Not this year. He told the public relations staff that he has given his last interview.

However, Moss dotes on 8-year-old Kassi Spier of Kimball, S.D., whom he met in 2000 when she was diagnosed with leukemia. Kassi has visited Moss at camp every year since. They walk hand-in-hand from the practice field to the lunchroom.

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