By Dave Thomas
Nick Novak, PK #9
Hometown: Charlottesville, Va.
While most NFL teams have a kicking competition in summer training camp between the kicker from the past and either a young draft pick or a veteran looking to latch on somewhere, they are typically forgone conclusions.
In many instances, the kicker from the previous year or years just has to show enough in camp to convince management that he can still get the job done. In those instances where questions surface, some teams may pull the trigger and go with the new guy, while others will stand by the veteran, figuring his experience will carry him through another season.
For the San Diego Chargers going into the 2012 camp, there certainly appeared to be legitimate questions as to whether or not longtime San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding would keep his job with the Bolts.
While Kaeding only played one down a season ago after a season-ending knee injury on the first player of the opener against Minnesota, he still ended the 2011 season as the most accurate field goal kicker in league history (86.5 completion percentage).
So, what were the chances going into this seasn that Kaeding could possibly lose his job?
As it turns out, those chances were apparently greater than a number of Charger fans knew, as Nick Novak challenged Kaeding and then some, before Chargers’ brass decided to once again go with their 2004 draft pick from Iowa.
After looking good in the first two games of the season, Kaeding and Co. suffered a 27-3 home loss to Atlanta, but it was later the following week when Kaeding felt an even bigger setback.
The Chargers reported last Friday that Kaeding suffered a groin injury, meaning Novak, who lives and trains in the San Diego area, was once again a regular member of the roster. In fact, Novak headed east on the plane with the Bolts to Kansas City for this past Sunday’s game with the Chiefs, a game in which Novak was 3-of-3 on field goals.
Given the psyche of kickers can be fragile at best, one might have wondered how Novak would do in Kaeding’s absence on such short notice. As of now, it looks like all systems are go when it comes to Novak.
Kaeding Injury May Be Worse Than First Feared
On Monday, the Chargers announced via Chargers.com that Kaeding may be sitting out longer than first expected with the groin issue. According to head coach Norv Turner, “I would not anticipate him kicking for a while.”
As a result, it appears as of now that Novak, who has also seen time over the years with the Jets, Cowboys, Cardinals, Chiefs and Redskins, will make the trip with the Bolts to New Orleans for this week’s Sunday Night Football showdown with the winless Saints. Beyond that, Novak could very well play a week later in the big home Monday Night Football encounter with the rival Broncos.
Having hit on 27-of-34 field goals in Kaeding’s absence in 2011, Charger fans should be pretty comfortable with one Nick Novak.
At least for the time being, it certainly seems as if Novak will be getting his kicks wearing the blue and white.
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Dave Thomas is a freelance writer covering all things Chargers. His work can be found on Examiner.com.