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Friendship Fuels Specialists' Success

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  • Friendship Fuels Specialists' Success

    Friendship Fuels Specialists' Success
    Monday, August 24, 2009

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    For as easy and automatic as they make their jobs look on Sundays, there’s a lot more to the work put in by punter Donnie Jones, long snapper Chris Massey and kicker Josh Brown than the average person might think.

    From the time spent in the weight room where Massey is among the strongest players on the team to the practice field where the trio perfects their respective crafts, the one thing they all know is that they can’t be the best trio of specialists in the NFL without one another.

    That’s why, at nearly every opportunity, Jones, Massey and Brown spend as much time together as they can both on and off the field. For all the God given talent they’ve each been blessed with, none of it would matter were it not for the chemistry they forge on hunting trips, family vacations and the daily ribbing and pranks they pull on each other.

    “We try to have a close personal relationship and that just carries over on to the field to what we do,” Massey said. “It makes things a lot easier, a lot smoother and it feels like we are a well oiled machine all the way around. All the nervousness and questioning each other, that’s not there with us. I know Donnie has got my back and Josh has both our backs. These guys, I just go out and do the best I can and contribute to their success and hopefully they make me look as good as I make them look.”

    At the risk of jinxing a streak of unparalleled consistency, it says here that Massey is the NFL’s most dependable player that most people have never heard of.

    Drafted in the seventh round of the 2002 NFL Draft, Massey is now one of the Rams’ elder statesman and the third longest-tenured Ram.

    In his seven seasons in the league, Massey has gone six seasons without botching a snap. For his career, Massey has snapped the ball 841 times. Only once (Dec. 11, 2006 in Chicago for the record) has he misfired and he is carrying a streak of 312 consecutive perfect snaps.

    That kind of consistency has made Massey exactly the type of player he wants to be: anonymous.

    “I take pride in people not knowing my name,” Massey said. “If you know my name it means I am not doing my job right.”

    There is no glamour to Massey’s position and very little glory. Much like an offensive lineman blocking for a 1,500-yard rusher, Massey gets his glory from helping Jones and Brown reach their goals.

    The reality is that without a good snap, a kicker and punter has little chance for success. A good snap is often considered one good enough to be kicked without getting blocked.

    But Massey has left a legacy of snapping the ball with enough velocity and accuracy to leave little doubt whether the ball is going to be booted.

    Take Jones for example. After working with a cavalcade of punters his first five years in the league, the Rams finally signed Jones to a long term contract. That allowed Massey to actually get to know one of the guys he’s snapping to and the results have been astounding.

    In 2008, Jones became the first punter in NFL history to average 50 gross yards and 40 net yards per punt. He attributes much of that success to Massey’s uncanny ability to put the ball in nearly the same spot every time.

    “He is the key to my success,” Jones said. “By being as consistent as he is I never have to move for the ball. It enables the timing to be pretty much the same every time. I have been around some good snappers and this guy is the best. It makes my job a lot easier when you’ve got the ball in the same place every time.”

    That holds true for Brown as well. Unlike Jones, Brown has to rely on both Massey and Jones for his process to work properly. Massey handles the snaps, Jones places the ball and Brown knocks it through the uprights.

    It’s not as easy as one, two, three; it just seems that way from watching the group execute it time and time again. Brown had a prolific season of his own in 2008, scoring 112 points on 31-of-36 field goal tries and made all 19 of his extra point attempts. Included in that was six conversions from 50 yards or more.

    Brown attributes that success to the relationship the trio has developed on and off the field.

    “I think it determines as successful as we are going to be,” Brown said. “You can’t be successful without it I don’t think. If I didn’t trust Massey to get the ball to Donnie and I didn’t trust Donnie enough knowing the ball is going to be there, I’d second guess myself. If I didn’t get to see how Chris works at his job or how Donnie works at holding and punting, I wouldn’t take them seriously. Being around them all that time, it enables you to come into a game with a lot of confidence.”

    And when Brown says all the time, he pretty much means it. During practices, Massey, Jones and Brown can often be found on a field separate from the offense and defense working on their respective skills.

    Of course, the business first attitude that (mostly) rules on the practice field is nowhere to be found when the time to focus on football has passed.

    Perhaps more than any group of players in the locker room, the jokes and ribbing that occurs among Jones, Massey and Brown is unmatched. Maybe it’s because they have a bit more free time than the rest of their teammates or because they have such specialized gigs.

    Whatever the reason there’s no denying that Jones, Massey and Brown’s bond has a direct correlation to their success on the field.

    That relationship is the reason Jones and Massey’s families traveled to Destin, Fla. for vacation in 2008. It’s why Massey took Brown to southern Illinois last year to teach him how to bow hunt.

    More often than not, though, it’s why the three are constantly, relentlessly teasing each other about something.

    According to Jones, he is regularly the target of his teammates’ ire. Apparently, Jones has a reputation for not having the best travel gear when it’s time for the Rams to go on a road trip.

    “His travel gear is the worst I have ever seen,” Massey said. “We are talking like Greg Norman golf polos, slacks and Italian black leather shoes he wears. It’s pretty good. I thought he was wearing it to joke with people. It would be so bad, we would rip on him so much that he would actually get to the city we are playing in he would actually buy a new shirt to wear home on the plane ride. And it would be just as bad as the one before.”

    “He’s the final member of Members Only,” Brown added.

    That doesn’t mean Brown and Massey are off limits, either. Jones and Massey love to tease Brown about his hunting prowess (or lack of) or his various appearances in the newspaper, on television or on the cover of magazines.

    Brown’s cameo on the front of a local magazine proclaiming the benefits of his workout regiment is a particular favorite of Massey and Jones when looking for ammunition.

    “Every time I get down or depressed, I look at that and it brings me back,” Massey said.

    The quiet and humble Massey is a little more difficult to target but that doesn’t mean he gets off clean.

    Massey is one of the strongest Rams on the team. But Jones and Brown maintain Massey’s success in the weight room is due in part to the fact that he never gets full extension on his repetitions.

    “It’s like a quarter press,” Jones said. “I am doing like 375 all the way out. I’m sure if I did a quarter I could do more.”
    For all the fun and games that take place off the field, at the end of the day it’s that bond that ultimately brings it all back together for a trio that doesn’t get the credit it deserves.

    “The operation of those three guys on field goals and (Massey) and Donnie on the punts is really important,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “I think those three guys do a nice job and work well together.”

    In reality, it’s not just the trio of Massey, Jones and Brown that need to have that chemistry on Sundays in order for the team to be successful. It’s that team building mentality that Spagnuolo has preached from the day he arrived.

    That means when Jones is being snubbed for the Pro Bowl, Massey and Brown are every bit as upset as he is. It means when Brown kicks a game winning field goal to beat Washington, Jones and Massey are just as excited as he is.

    You look at the teams in the past, the chemistry these teams have had,” Brown said. “You realize the importance of team chemistry and the importance of making friends and caring about the people that are on the other side of the ball and going to battle with you. And it takes that to go a whole 16 weeks and four more weeks into a Super Bowl to be successful. None of these guys are running around as perfect strangers. I think that’s good for our group.

    “We have set ourselves in a foundation now that if we can stay here together for 10 years, 12 years, we are going to be really successful. There’s no arrogance about it. We are going to be good.”

Related Topics


  • RamWraith
    Punting Without Peer
    by RamWraith
    Wednesday, December 3, 2008

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Five years ago, a low line drive punt traveling 41 yards that netted just 12 yards such as the one Donnie Jones booted in the first quarter against San Francisco on Nov. 16, would have been enough to drive Jones to a point of frustration that would have ruined him for the rest of the game.

    Such is the fragile psyche of a young punter in the NFL. At one of the few positions in the NFL where success or failure can be instantly recognized by anyone watching, it’s up to the punter to immediately put the previous punt – good or bad – in the rearview mirror.

    “I’d go in the toilet,” Jones said. “I was bad. I thought I was going to get cut. Then it would kind of snowball.”

    Since arriving in St. Louis on April 25, 2007 as a free agent, that snowball has apparently melted.

    In his first season as a Ram, Jones posted one of the finest seasons by a punter in franchise history. His 47.2 yard average was the highest season average in franchise history and helped him finish second in the NFC and third in the NFL in that category.

    And for as good as Jones was in 2007, he appears poised to take those numbers to a new level.

    Through 12 games, Jones leads the NFL with a 49.7 yard average on 63 punts. Perhaps more impressive and a testament to the hang time and angle of his punts in addition to the distance is Jones’ 40.7 net average which is good for third in the league and first in the NFC in that category.

    “I do think he’s a Pro Bowler,” coach Jim Haslett said. “There are a couple things. One, he has a live leg, a really live leg. He’s a big guy, he’s powerful. He can control the ball well, he can spot it, he can place it where he wants to. If he wants to kick it deep, he can kick it high. He can do almost anything he wants. I think Donnie feels good about it; he can’t punt it down there. We don’t have to worry about punting it out of bounds or sideways if we have a great returner. We punt to the best. The coverage units have been doing a good job and obviously he has a heck of a leg on him.”

    Just 26 games into his career as a Ram, it’s safe to say the days of fretting over being released or where his next opportunity might come are a thing of the past for Jones.

    “When I got here I finally said ‘Listen, you kicked a bad one so what are you going to do now?’” Jones said. “Are you going to sit there and sulk and say oh what am I going to do? I used to do all of that stuff and it kills you. Your head is not even in the game so you hit a bad one, it’s over. It’s a new game, go back out, start over and do it. The bad ones are going to happen. As much as you don’t want them to happen, they just do for some reason. You have to get over it.”


    The process of remembering to forget has been many years in...
    -12-04-2008, 05:38 AM
  • RamWraith
    Brown aces dèjá vu test
    by RamWraith
    By Bill Coats
    Monday, Oct. 13 2008
    LANDOVER, MD. — Three years and 10 days ago, Josh Brown stood in almost exactly
    the same spot, in almost exactly the same situation.

    His Seattle Seahawks were tied with the Washington Redskins as Brown lined up
    for a 47-yard field goal try with 1 second remaining. Brown's kick was long,
    high and ... hooked left, bounding away off the upright.

    The Seahawks lost in overtime.

    On Sunday, with 90,376 voices enveloping FedEx Field, the Rams down by a point
    and 2 ticks left, Brown sent a 49-yarder long, high and ... right down the

    The Rams won 19-17.

    "It was a good opportunity for me to kind of exorcise those demons," Brown
    said. "But it feels good just to win a game."

    That's something the Rams had done just three times in their last 20 contests,
    and not once this season in four outings. The Redskins, conversely, were riding
    a four-game winning streak.

    Safety Oshiomogho Atogwe raced 75 yards with a fumble just before the half for
    the Rams' only touchdown, and the special teams provided a big boost.

    Brown connected on three other field goals, from 51, 25 and 44 yards. Donnie
    Jones, the NFL's leading punter, averaged 47.2 yards on six boots, Dante Hall
    averaged 23.7 yards on three kickoff returns and scooted 34 yards with his only
    punt, and the Rams' coverage was generally solid.

    "Even though the returns and some of the special-teams play didn't go for
    points, it helped to maintain field position," Hall said. "If they did go on a
    long drive, the defense would have time to recover and stop them."

    Brown, who signed a free-agent deal in the offseason that made him the
    highest-paid kicker in NFL history, was money on the game-winner, even after a
    15-yard unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty on guard Richie Incognito moved him

    "I was kind of angry," Brown said. "But you can't allow too much to go on in
    your mind. You really just have to ... live in the moment, and kick your ball."

    First, it has to be snapped properly, and Chris Massey got that done. "We
    practice every day for this situation," Massey said. "It's different for a
    snapper than a quarterback or a receiver, but you always look forward to having
    the ball in your hands when the game's on the line."

    Then, the holder has to catch it and spot it correctly, and Jones got that
    done. "My heart was racing," Jones said. "I was telling myself, 'Just catch it
    and put it down.'"

    Finally, the kicker has to make solid contact, and Brown did. "You just have to...
    -10-13-2008, 10:39 AM
  • general counsel
    The Bionic leg is in midseason form
    by general counsel
    Huge night for donnie jones again. That left footed spiral is pretty tough on the young punt returners (i think three different jets dropped 50 yard bombs off the leg of jones). Nice night for josh brown as well.

    We have the best kicking tandem in the nfl. At least we got that going for us.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel
    -08-14-2009, 07:12 PM
  • MauiRam
    Josh Brown looking for more accuracy ..
    by MauiRam
    BY BILL COATS Thursday, September 2, 2010 5:00 am

    An avid hunter, Rams kicker Josh Brown knows the sinking feeling of an off-target shot. And Brown had too many wayward boots for his liking last season.

    Brown, signed as a free agent in 2008, had increased his field-goal accuracy for three consecutive seasons — 80.6 percent in 2006, 82.4 in '07 and 86.1 in '08 — before dipping in '09.

    He missed five times in 24 tries, a 79.2 percent success rate. It was his worst showing since going 18 for 25 in 2005 for Seattle.

    "Those numbers are not the numbers I want to have or to reflect how much I care about what I'm doing," he said. "Took a lot of inventory this year in what we were doing and how we were approaching the game, and it's been paying off."

    Brown, who teams with long-snapper Chris Massey and holder Donnie Jones, has been perfect in the preseason: seven for seven on field goals, including a game-winning 37-yarder last week at New England, and four for four on extra points heading into tonight's game against Baltimore.

    "Great preseason; definitely the kind of momentum and confidence you want to carry into Week 1" of the regular season, Brown said.

    Oddly enough, a hip injury that kept Brown out of the preseason opener and on the sideline for several more days might have played in role in his flawless performance so far.

    "It's been the best Catch-22 ever," said Brown, 31. "You never want to miss practice time, but at the same time, I was able to get a lot of rest. And when you don't have somebody helping you taking some reps off of you, as far as having another kicker in, you do carry a larger workload from a kicker's standpoint.

    "It's not going to be the workload of a defensive back or a wide receiver. But for what you're specifically hired to do, it's a lot. To get a week, week and a half off of just pure rest may be the difference between an 80 percent year and a 90 percent year."

    As the preseason wraps up, Brown likes the rhythm he's been able to develop with Massey and Jones.

    "We've been here three years together, and we know each other inside and out," he said. "That's the most important thing, to make sure that we're all firing on all the cylinders we've got, that the timing's good, the stroke has to be good, it has to be rhythmic."


    With Missouri and Illinois headed for a matchup Saturday at the Edward Jones Dome, former Mizzou wide receiver Danario Alexander and ex-Illini tight end Michael Hoomanawanui have been sharing some trash talk.

    Actually, Alexander has been doing most of the yapping.

    Noting the Tigers' 5-0 record in the Arch Rivalry, Alexander said, "I don't plan on them losing this year, either. Of course Mizzou is...
    -09-02-2010, 10:02 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Brown Embraces Role As Man In The Middle
    by r8rh8rmike
    Brown Embraces Role as Man in the Middle
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    By Nick Wagoner
    Senior Writer

    Whether it’s a regular practice repetition during the week or an important play late in a crucial game, Jason Brown’s booming voice can often be heard barking at whoever it is that has the unfortunate job of spotting the football before a play.

    “I yell this out a lot and everybody looks at me like I am crazy but I do it to set the tempo,” Brown said. “We have to have an attitude in attacking every play with a passion. So one thing I do whenever we start a drill, one of our equipment guys, Matt, that lays the balls down for us, I yell at him ‘PUT THAT BALL DOWN’ and I repeat it and everybody is like ‘Yeah, where is the ball?’ Let’s get in the huddle and get fired up. Sometimes I do that in game situations as well and it’s funny because the ref is supposed to hurry up, spot the ball and get out of the way. I will yell at him too.”

    Don’t worry; Brown isn’t going to draw a flag for any of his pre snap antics. While he says it mostly in joking terms, Brown isn’t trying to make anyone laugh and he certainly isn’t trying to antagonize anyone.

    Instead, Brown is doing what he believes is an important part of one of the most responsibility-laden positions on the field. He’s setting the pace and the tone. He’s attacking the game with the verve and zest that comes with being with one of the league’s best centers and one of the Rams’ most respected leaders.

    Brown’s yelling about the ball is just one of many small things he can do to lead his teammates and establish a pace that he believes can translate into offensive success.

    “There are a lot of things I try to bring no matter how little they seem or how funny they seem,” Brown said.


    Since the departure of fan favorite Andy McCollum a few years ago, the Rams have found themselves in search of a center capable of bringing stability to the position.

    In the past few years, the center position has become one of the most important on the field. Offensively, only a quarterback has more responsibilities and needs to know more than the center.

    Like the evolution of the left tackle back in the 1980s when Lawrence Taylor and a new breed of pass rushers were wreaking havoc on quarterbacks all over the league, the center has become the new vogue position on the offensive line.

    So when the Rams hit the free agent market back in March, they quickly identified Brown as target No. 1 for their rebuilding offensive line.

    “You really want to be strong up the middle and he has brought stability to our offensive line,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. “He has done a nice job with the calls and the quarterback, the center, the tailback, those are important, key pieces to an offense...
    -11-19-2009, 12:11 PM