Gutierrez: SeaBass kickin' it in his 12th season

August 25, 2011, 6:50 pm
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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."