Janikowski May Not be a Bust After All

Kicker set to become all time points leader for Raiders

When Sebastian Janikowski arrived in Oakland in 2000 there were big expectations for the big-legged kicker who was the first specialist drafted in the opening round in 21 years.

A career that began with inconsistent kicking on the field and trouble off it has settled down lately as Janikowski closes in on breaking Hall of Famer George Blanda's career scoring record for the Raiders.

With five points Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, Janikowski would surpass Blanda's mark of 863.

"It's just a number, right?" Janikowski said this week. "It's kind of cool. I'm just proud to be able to break his record. To me it's just a number, but it will be nice to have the record."

When Al Davis selected Janikowski with the 17th pick to be a game-changer with his booming left leg, it was supposed to lead to plenty of long field goals and frequent touchbacks.

The beginning of his career featured way too many misses for a kicker drafted so high. Janikowski missed 10 field goals as a rookie, and connected on only 76 percent for his first three seasons. Clearly, he struggled to live up to those lofty expectations.

"I don't care how high the bar is I just try to do my best," he said. "I don't care how high the bar was. I don't think of it that way. You can't allow things to get in your head. It will just mess it up."

He also was briefly jailed on suspicion of misdemeanor assault, misdemeanor vandalism and public drunkenness -- among a handful of run-ins with the law. But Janikowski's settled down in recent years as he has matured and gotten married.

"They come to expect a whole lot from him, which could be unfair to him in a lot of ways," said punter Shane Lechler, who has been the holder for Janikowski since the two entered the league together in 2000. "You look at it and he only has one miss under 57 yards and you also look at how many attempts over 50 yards in his career compared to other guys. I've never seen him turn down a kick. The coach always asks him if he's got it and he always says, 'I got it."'

Even when it's from 76 yards out, as Janikowski showed at the end of the first half against San Diego on Sept. 28. Former coach Lane Kiffin let the clock run down at the end of the half to give Janikowski a chance at a kick that was 13 yards longer than the current record. Janikowski's attempt fell well short, barely making it to the goal line.

Breaking the record held by Tom Dempsey and Jason Elam is as much a matter of opportunity for Janikowski as it is leg strength. Janikowski had a shot last year, when he attempted a 64-yarder at the end of half against Houston. That try had plenty of distance but hit off the right upright for a miss.

"It doesn't matter whether it's a 20-yarder or a 76-yarder, my process and thoughts, everything's the same," Janikowski said after trying the long attempt this season. "It's the same routine. That one you just have to swing a little bit harder, I guess, but I didn't hit it right and it didn't get there."

Janikowski has attempted more long kicks than anyone since entering the league, with 39 tries from 50 yards or longer. But he has only made 18 of those attempts, trailing Jason Hanson (22), and Jeff Wilkins (20) for the most made. His 46 percent success rate from long range is the worst in the league in that span among kickers with at least 16 attempts.

Already this season, he set a team record with a 56-yard field goal at Kansas City in Week 2, then broke that that mark by 1 yard with the longest field goal ever in overtime in a win over the New York Jets two weeks ago.

"That's probably the best one I have made," he said. "I've tried longer ones, like the 64-yarder last year. If I had made that one it would have been the best one."

Janikowski's big leg gives his teammates extreme confidence in him. Interim coach Tom Cable said it helps his coaching, knowing that he can take a few more chances on offense because Janikowski's range starts earlier than most kickers.

"As long as you get on the other side of the field, Seabass can really put it in there," quarterback JaMarcus Russell said.

While Janikowski joined the Raiders as a rookie, Blanda didn't come to Oakland until he was 39 years old. But he played nine seasons with the Raiders, topping the 100-point mark four times and also throwing 23 touchdown passes as a part-time quarterback.

Janikowski, 30, has a long ways to go to match Blanda's longevity records, but says that's worth a try too.

"Why not if I can," he said. "If my body is going to let me, yeah."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us