Rams Notebook: Links language helps ease kicking stress for Wilkins
By Bill Coats
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Jeff Wilkins and Dane Looker are hoping to get in some golf tonight in Kansas City.
Huh? Won't they be otherwise occupied, as the Rams take on the Chiefs in the annual Governor's Cup contest at Arrowhead Stadium?
Call it their game within a game. When Wilkins, the Rams' kicker, and Looker, his holder, prepare for a field goal try, they use golf terms. The idea is to keep the atmosphere stress-free.
"We go out on the field, and he's my caddie," Wilkins explained. "We'll line up before every kick, and I'll say, depending on how far it is and the conditions, 'What do you think? 7-iron? 5-iron?' Or for a 50-yarder, he might say, 'Hey, you've got to pull out the 3-wood here.'
"It kind of just keeps me in the here and now and helps me relax a little bit."
Apparently, it works. Wilkins, one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history, has an 82 percent success rate. He has booted a Rams-record 252 field goals; his 57-yarder in 1998 also is a franchise best.
Plus, he's converted his last 311 extra-point tries, the second-longest streak in league history (Denver's Jason Elam hit 371 in a row from 1993-2002.) Wilkins' last miss was on Dec. 27, 1998, against the San Francisco *****, for whom he played before signing a free-agent deal with the Rams in '97.
Wilkins, known as "Money" to his teammates, plans to make his preseason debut vs. the Chiefs. Remy Hamilton did all the kicking in the first two games, as Wilkins limited his work to practice.
"In the past I've had a habit of overkicking," said Wilkins, who after 13 years in the NFL knows exactly how much strain his 34-year-old right leg can take. "Getting older, I realize that I can't do as much even if I want to. My body won't allow it."
First-year Rams coach Scott Linehan deferred to Wilkins on his preseason strategy. "It's a program he's comfortable with, and he's had great seasons," Linehan said. "I have no problem with that."
Still, Wilkins conceded that he needed at least some "live" action to smooth off the last of the rough edges.
"Practice just isn't the same as a game," he said. "I still have two games to get my timing down. Not only myself, but my snapper (Chris Massey) and my holder. Until you get in a game and get the true reps, it's hard to say that I'm 100 percent."
Only then will he be ready to tee it up for real.
Hamilton draws praise
Barring catastrophe, Hamilton won't be on the Rams' final roster. But he could make another team's, Wilkins emphasized.
"Remy could be kicking in this league," Wilkins said. "You know how it is with the kicking situation; it could turn at any time."
Linehan said Hamilton "is a great person, a great worker. He knows the odds are against him, but he also knows other people are evaluating kickers. He doesn't forgo the opportunity somewhere else if he kicks well for us."
A trial run
Discussions about the "importance" of winning the Governor's Cup usually are accompanied by a wink and a nod. Still, Rams running back Steven Jackson said he believes that this year's game carries more significance than most.
"I think this week in particular we're going to go out and try to set the tempo," he said. "It gives us a chance to prepare for them later on in the year. I think there's a lot we can take away from this game."
The Chiefs will visit the Edward Jones Dome on Nov. 5. Although no one will be handing out trophies then, that game will count.