Gutierrez: SeaBass kickin' it in his 12th season


Gutierrez: SeaBass kickin' it in his 12th season

Paul Gutierrez
CSNCalifornia.comNAPA -- Arizona seems like such a long time ago now, even if the scab can still be picked at.It was on Sept. 26 of last year, in the air-conditioned and controlled environment of University of Phoenix Stadium, when Sebastian Janikowski went off the rails. The Raiders' all-time leading scorer, possessor of the strongest leg in the NFL, did the unthinkable in missing three gimme field goals. The last shank the most painful of all, a 32-yarder that sailed wide left as time expired, sending the Raiders back to Oakland on the wrong end of a 24-23 outcome.
"Obviously, I didn't know him as well then," mused rookie head coach Hue Jackson, who was then in his third game as the Raiders offensive coordinator. "But I know him now. I know he's beyond all that and he's a tremendous asset to this organization and this football team."He should be. The man known in the streets of Silver and Blackdom as "SeaBass" has scored 1,142 career points and is coming off a single-season franchise record of 142 points in 2010.And still, the specter of Arizona hangs like the football on one of his powerful kickoffs.Consider: in the Raiders' exhibition opener against those very same Cardinals at the Coliseum on Aug. 11, Janikowski's opening kickoff split the uprights on the northern goal posts. So with the NFL moving kickoffs up to the 35-yard line, that would have been a 75-yard field goal.RELATED: Sebastian Janikowski 2010 game logs
"Yeah," Janikowski said with a sheepish smile, "but that was off the tee."Of course, a thousand times of course, and there was no snap to navigate, or laces for the holder to turn outward."Yeah, but I hit the sweet spot," Janikowski relented. "If I hit the sweet spot, over time it should go 10 yards deep(er). No problem."The sweetest spots he's ever hit in a game came on Dec. 27, 2009, when he nailed a 61-yarder in the elements of Cleveland for the third-longest field goal in league history.On Oct. 19, 2008 at the Coliseum, his 57-yarder to beat the New York Jets and set an NFL record for longest overtime field goal.Since being taken as the Raiders' surprising first-round draft choice in 2000 out of Florida State, Janikowski has led Oakland in scoring in each of his 11 seasons and his career field goal percentage of 78.7 (229 of 292) is the highest in franchise history. He has also missed only three of his career 316 point-after attempts.But coming into this season, the buzz on Janikowski was generated by the league's mandate to move up the kickoffs, a decision based on player safety, what with purportedly fewer high speed collisions."I liked it," Janikowski said of the rule. "I mean, (there's) going to be a lot of more touchbacks in the league, so hopefully it will help the team."Which begs the question - does Janikowski always want to kick the ball deep into the end zone?"It depends on the coach and situation," he said. "Sometimes you want to kick it as high as you can, just land it two-, three-(yards) deep so we can maybe tackle (the returner) inside the 10-yard line."His 29 touchbacks last season set a career high and ranked second in the NFL, so you get the feeling that if he wanted to, he could kick it out of the end zone every time, no?"Pretty much," Janikowski said with a shrug. "It's going to be a good percentage."Early in his career, SeaBass was seen as a hell-raiser, in the most earnest of Raider ways. Now 33 years old, he is a much more calm figure.He reported to camp with a much leaner physique. Listed at 6-foot-2, 250 pounds (he says he's actually "260, 258"), his upper body now resembles that of a mixed martial artist."Yeah, worked out a little bit more," he said. "Getting older, so you've got to lift (weights) more. Take care of my body a little bit better."(I) just feel better, definitely."The lockout gave Janikowski time to reflect on a career that begin in the final days of the Clinton Administration. As well as just, well, chill out."My golf game improved," he said with a laugh.As has his distance.Wednesday, he treated VIP fans in attendance to the power of his left leg.RELATED: Raiders Report (824): Janikowski shows off boot
With a field-goal defense facing him, Janikowski drilled what would have been an NFL-record 64-yard field goal with room to spare (the record of 63 yards is shared by Tom Dempsey and Jason Elam).Moved five yards back, Janikowski's 69-yarder fell short and wide right.Four days earlier, though, he made a 70-yarder."Just messing around," Janikowski said. "I was feeling good."Said Jackson: "I've been around four other teams and I've never seen a guy kick a ball like that. It's not like he's taking a running start. The guy takes two steps and, Boom, there goes the ball."

Marquette King a renaissance man, though punting is his specialty

Marquette King a renaissance man, though punting is his specialty

SARASOTA, Fla. – Raiders players had free time on Monday afternoon, and most scattered through the Sarasota Ritz Carlton hotel and the surrounding town.

Not Marquette King. The Raiders punter found a baby grand piano and started tickling the ivories. He wasn’t practicing chop sticks. The guy can flat play.

“I’m like Nick Cannon,” King said. “I can’t read music, but I can play what I can hear.”

King can flat punt, too.

While he simplifies his duty to catch it and kick it, it’s a bit more complicated than that. King seems to have mastered the art in his fourth season and the Raiders’ full-time punter.

This season could be his best, and that’s saying something. He’s averaging 42.4 net yards per attempt – the highest of his career – and has put 15 of 34 punts inside the 20-yard line. To top off that excellent stat line, he only has three touchbacks.

King had an excellent day against Jacksonville. He averaged 50.6 net yards over five punts and put four inside the 20. He also made one hard to catch. Jacksonville’s Rashad Greene muffed a punt that Andre Holmes recovered, giving the Raiders the short field required to score an easy touchdown.

Oh, and there was something about a 27-yard run off a bad snap, where he earned a first down with surprising speed.

What was King thinking on that crucial run, one that helped put Jacksonville down on Sunday afternoon?

"I just thought that,” King said, “if I ran fast enough, my ratings would go up on Madden.”

That earned some honors. King was named AFC special teams player of the week on Tuesday morning.

King, a master of social media, came up with a term for doing all that: Punthlete.

That’s an accurate term for someone among the first of his kind, a rare athlete who has become a real weapon for a quality Raiders team.

He can do other things, but earns a great living specializing in one thing.

“There ain’t nothing to really talk about,” King said. “You just catch the ball and punt it. There’s technique to it, but…”

King trailed off at that point. He isn’t interested in talking about his craft. The guy knows how to have a good time, whether it’s acting like a mannequin in a Sarasota Gap store, playing drums with a local band or playing soul music without much effort.

King taught himself how to play piano two seasons ago out of boredom on road trips, and learned the trade pretty fast.

“When I see pianos in the lobby, I just wanted to play it,” King said. “Now that I know how to play it, I can just play.

“I need it myself. It’s therapy.”

LB Smith praises Raiders' turnover ratio, but wants much more

LB Smith praises Raiders' turnover ratio, but wants much more

SARASOTA, Fla. – The Raiders defense gave up 344 yards Sunday while beating the Jacksonville Jaguars.

That sum’s a season low, still way too many for Malcolm Smith. The Raiders weakside linebacker has higher standards, even after one of two solid defensive efforts in seven games.

“That’s still a lot of yards,” Smith said. “We’re not where we want to be.”

Just because Sunday was better doesn’t mean it’s good enough. The Raiders defense ranks last in yards allowed and 22nd in scoring defense at 25.6 points per game.

There’s a main reason why the Raiders aren’t dead last in both categories. Takeaways.

The Raiders have plundered the opposition this season 13 times in seven games. Special teams got one Sunday on a muffed punt, but the defense has been incredibly active stealing possession.

Reggie Nelson has a nose for the ball, with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. Sean Smith and David Amerson have two picks each and Bruce Irvin leads the league with four forced fumbles.

Turnovers make all those yards allowed easy to stomach, and has kept the Raiders in several close games. The force big mistakes and don’t make many, proven with a plus-eight turnover ratio ranked No. 3 overall.

“It’s given us a chance to win some games, where you could just look at other statistics and say we wouldn’t have a chance.” Smith said. “That’s what the game is about, and us finding ways to compete. Hopefully we stay after it that way.”

The Raiders have stayed after it in the red zone, allowing touchdowns on just 50 percent of opponent trips inside their 20-yard line.

While big plays have brought wins and positivity to the defense, the season’s first half has been difficult for Raiders expecting more.

“It’s definitely frustrating,” Smith said. “You come into the year with all these aspirations and things you want to do. When it doesn’t go your way you have to stay after it, keep putting the work in and know it’s not going to be wasted. Hopefully we’re making strides and those improvements will show on Sundays.”

The Raiders believe the defense is close to being good, and has done a solid job masking issues with takeaways and timely production.

“Our team has done a great job of competing to win games,” Smith said. “If we keep doing that, everything will be fine.”