- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 11, 2006

It was a familiar scene at Redskin Park yesterday.

As was the case in September of last season, the locker of kicker John Hall was full of gear, but he was nowhere to be seen. Across the room, replacement Nick Novak faced a slew of microphones, cameras and tape recorders.

“It’s an easy transition,” said Novak, the Maryland graduate who re-signed with the Redskins on Tuesday after Hall was placed on injured reserve because of his fourth leg injury in two years. “I’ve had Derrick Frost as a holder, and I’ve had Ethan Albright as a snapper. I feel confident. I’ve been training every day for this. Hopefully, I’m here for a while.”

The job is Novak’s for the duration if he proves accurate — unlike last fall, when Hall remained on the active roster and Novak was destined to be cut once the veteran was healthy.

The 25-year-old Novak made five of seven kicks last season — including the 39-yarder that beat eventual NFC champion Seattle in overtime — and hit all three of his attempts for the Arizona Cardinals while Pro Bowl kicker Neil Rackers was hurt.

After being cut by Arizona this summer, Novak tried out for New Orleans and Green Bay and trained at Purdue, where his parents are professors. Novak drove to Maryland on Saturday to resume working out at his alma mater.

On Monday, the Redskins invited him to try out because Hall’s leg felt weak during the previous day’s loss at the New York Giants. Novak made all 12 of his kicks at the Tuesday tryout, the longest from 53 yards, and also booted six kickoffs to earn the job over veteran Todd Peterson, ex-Redskin Jose Cortez and Tyler Jones, who had been Hall’s competition during training camp.

“I didn’t come in with the attitude that I had a leg up [because of last year],” Novak said. “It really depends how you perform in the workout. The competition was stiff. I think they liked the distance I had and the hang time. I feel stronger than I was my rookie year.”

Novak’s longest kick as a rookie was a relatively short 40 yards. His misses, from 38 and 39 yards, were both blocked. He credited Cardinals special teams coach Gary Zauner for improving his kickoffs and his consistency on field goals. Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said Novak, not punter Derrick Frost, will kick off Sunday against Tennessee.

Meanwhile, the 32-year-old Hall has probably run out of chances in Washington.

“I saw John today,” Albright said. “He was real disappointed. I’m disappointed for him. He worked real hard to get himself healthy [following offseason abdominal surgery], and when he’s healthy he’s as good as anybody.”

Hall made 21 of 25 field goal tries the last two years, but he missed 15 of the past 32 games with injuries.

“We have a high-quality guy who’s one of our hardest workers, one of the best [kickers] in the league, but he’s had leg problems three straight years,” Gibbs said. “How do you explain that?”

Springs in his step

Ace cornerback Shawn Springs didn’t participate in team drills, but he went through all the individual drills and took limited work in the 7-on-7 portion for the first time since he underwent abdominal surgery Aug. 15.

Springs’ only previous trip between the lines since the operation resulted in a badly strained right groin. It’s still doubtful he could play against the Titans, but the session marked his first tangible progress in almost two months.

“I’m happy that nothing got tweaked, nothing got any worse,” Springs said. “That’s a start. Every day is different. Tomorrow it might be sore. I have to feel like nothing is tweaked and nothing is hurting [to play]. Coach Gibbs told me, ‘If you feel good, maybe we can get you some snaps [on Sunday].’ ”

Linebacker Marcus Washington (hip), defensive end Phillip Daniels (shoulder) and defensive tackles Cornelius Griffin (hip) and Joe Salave’a (calf) didn’t practice. Washington, Daniels and Griffin are expected to start against the Titans. Salave’a, who missed the Houston and Jacksonville games with a similar injury, could sit out again Sunday.

Frost was absent to attend his grandmother’s funeral and also is bothered by a calf injury. He and receiver David Patten (thigh) are both probable for Sunday.

The Redskins signed Nick Steitz to the practice squad and cut fellow offensive lineman C.J. Brooks (Maryland).


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