Nick Novak relishes competition for Chargers' kicking job

SAN DIEGO -- Nick Novak said he was feeling a little froggy.

Unlike the San Diego Chargers, who are trying to escape Qualcomm as quickly as possible, Novak asked for permission to get into the stadium at Mission Valley to practice his kicking. And he was successful, using the facility for three straight days last week.

Near the end of his workout, Novak said he started out kicking field goals at 55 yards, then worked back to 58, 59 and ultimately finished his workout by making a 62-yard field goal.

"I shut it down after that," Novak said. "But it was fun. There were some people in the stands saying, 'Go back farther,' hyping me up. So it was fun."

Novak, who has a career-best 53-yard field goal in the NFL, produced his 62 yarder 11 days after University of Texas kicker Nick Rose made an 80-yard field goal during a workout. Rose also made a field goal while doing a back flip.

"It’s hard to impress people these days," Novak said. "You’ve got kids kicking 67 and 80-yard field goals. I think the reaction I got was, 'Oh wow, I’m surprised he can still do that.' I had one guy say, 'Did you take that video 10 years ago and just post it?'"

Novak turns 34 in August and has been San Diego’s kicker since taking over the job in 2011. He has not lost the desire and work ethic required to be one of most consistent kickers in the NFL. Novak holds the franchise record with 32 straight made field goals. And his field goal conversion rate of 86.3 percent ranks just behind Nate Kaeding's franchise record of 87.0 percent.

But Novak will have some competition in training camp, with the Chargers signing undrafted rookie free agent Josh Lambo out of Texas A&M in May.

"I love it," Novak said. "Personally, I love to compete. I think only positive things can happen when you’re pushed. For me, I’ve never taken a practice for granted or been complacent. So I just think it will just make me even more focused than I am. It’s hard to imagine that I can be more focused, but I think it’s healthy. Every position has competition, so why not mine?"

One area of focus for Novak is improving his distance on kickoffs. Although Novak finished last in the league in percentage of touchbacks (12.8), his high hang time on kickoffs allowed the Chargers to hold opponents to an average of 22.2 yards per kick return in 2014, No. 8 in the NFL.

"It’s really making fine, little adjustments," Novak said. "Being able to go out there on kickoffs, knowing exactly what you want to do to get the result you want. When you’re done kicking a field goal, you turn that kickoff switch on. You step up the intensity and do certain things to get the ball to go higher and farther."

Novak also said he’s up for the challenge of kicking 33-yard extra points with the new rule implemented by the NFL this season.

"Instead of people taking a bathroom break or snack break on the extra point, they’ll stick around and watch," he said. "It’s pretty much a field goal every attempt. And I’m going to be one of the kickers that looks forward to it."