Janikowski deals with more change in 14th season
(Eds: Updates. With AP Photos.)
By JOSH DUBOW
AP Sports Writer
He has played for eight head coaches, seven special teams coordinators and with countless teammates since entering the NFL in 2000 as the first kicker taken in the first round of the draft in 21 years.
The one constant through all the turnover and turmoil was Janikowski's kicking partner and close friend Shane Lechler. Lechler also entered the NFL in 2000 and served as the Raiders punter and Janikowski's holder until leaving this offseason as a free agent for Houston.
So Janikowski heads into his 14th season in Oakland and final one on this contract with a bit of uncertainty.
"It was weird," Janikowski said Wednesday about not having Lechler around anymore. "I was back here a month ago and it was weird. But you get used to it. It's your job."
With 13 years as punting and kicking teammates, Janikowski and Lechler spent plenty of time together as the kicking specialists often work on their own when the rest of the team is working on offense and defense at practice.
The two were among late owner Al Davis' favorites and two of his more productive draft picks in his later years before his death in October 2011.
"That doesn't affect my decision," Janikowski said. "I would love to stay and finish my career here. I don't have a problem with that. This is where I started and I would like to finish it (here)."
Once known as a player who partied too much and had a history of run-ins with the law, Janikowski has settled down in recent years after getting married and having kids.
As he got older, Janikowski said he realized the importance of staying in shape to compete with younger players and said he lost about 10 pounds this offseason.
"That was many years back," he said of his party days. "You're getting older and there's a lot of guys out there younger than you. You just got to keep up with it. It's your job. You got to take it seriously."
He showed up at the team's first week of OTAs last month -- a voluntary practice that he had skipped in the past -- as he tries to work with a new holder this offseason.
Punter Chris Kluwe has held for Janikowski this week at practice and he also has worked with punter Marquette King. He said Lechler held for all of his kicks in the regular and postseason and it will take extra time to build up that same rapport with his new punter.
"You got to get used to it," he said. "I'm going to get back here early before training camp, and we're going to work on it. The timing is going to be different. Going into training camp, I want to feel more comfortable with it."
Janikowski has been one of the league's best kickers in recent years, missing just one kick inside of 50 yards the past two seasons. He is tied with John Kasay for the second most field goals of at least 50 yards in NFL history with 42 and is just 10 off the career record held by recently retired Jason Hanson.
With Janikowski averaging more than five made field goals from at least 50 yards over the past six seasons, that record appears to be in reach as the 35-year-old believes he can kick for seven or eight more years.
"I know I got the leg and I got the talent," he said. "I've been fortunate, been healthy enough, hopefully I got many more years to come."
Janikowski is more interested in another record, looking to become the first player ever to kick a field goal longer than 63 yards. He is one of four players to connect from 63 yards, doing it in the thin air in Denver in 2011 and he has also connected from 61 yards in the snow in Cleveland in 2009.
"I hope every year it's going to fall. But, hey, we'll see. We'll see what happens."
NOTES: CB Mike Jenkins left practice early after banging knees and CB Phillip Adams was taken out with a hamstring injury. ... Rookie RB Latavius Murray will miss the minicamp with a foot injury but coach Dennis Allen doesn't expect it to be an issue come training camp. ... Allen said he talked with the Saints about holding a joint practice before the team's exhibition game in New Orleans but it did not work out.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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