Snap. Hold. Kick. Sounds simple.
Like he's done his entire career kicker Paul McCallum made it look easy, connecting on all four of his field goal tries when the B.C. Lions opened their CFL season with a 33-16 victory against the Winnipeg Blue Bombers last week.
Looks can be deceiving. McCallum was working with both a new long snapper in veteran centre Angus Reid and holder in backup quarterback Mike Reilly.
"It's not that simple at all,'' said Reilly after the Lions practiced this week at their facility in Surrey, B.C.
For a field goal unit to be successful the three main components need to function like a team within a team. They must harmonize like The Bee Gees, bond like The Three Musketeers. What they don't want is to come off like The Three Stooges.
McCallum was a machine last season. With Dan McCullough snapping and backup quarterback Jarious Jackson holding, he set a league record for accuracy by hitting 50 of 53 attempts for a 94.3 per cent success rate. He also wrote his name in the record books by making 30 consecutive field goals.
|Jackson holding in Toronto|
McCallum's old holder, Jarious Jackson, is now in Toronto trying to help correct a subpar performance in the Argos' kicking game in Week 1. Click here to read more.
McCullough retired after the Lions' Grey Cup victory and Jackson was released. Suddenly McCallum is breaking in a new act.
"If you get one of them (new), it makes a difference,'' said McCallum. "But if you get two, it just compounds it.''
Most kickers wait for the ball to arrive in the holder's hands before beginning their motion. McCallum prefers to watch the ball arrive from centre. He also likes the holder to pin the ball in the middle of the kicking tee.
For now, McCallum is still adapting to how Reid delivers the ball and how Reilly handles it upon arrival.
"If the velocity (from the snapper) is not the same my timing will change,'' said McCallum, who has scored 2,561 points in a 19-year career with Ottawa, Saskatchewan and B.C. "Each holder catches the ball differently.
"It takes a little while for me to get used to their idiosyncrasies. How they catch it, put it down, how they spin it. The speed the ball is coming back.''
Even though McCallum was perfect against the Bombers his kicking motion wasn't as fluid as he'd like.
"I probably was a little slower,'' said the 42-year-old who is in his ninth season in B.C. "I was being a little more cautious. They did a good job. It's just going to be a work in progress.''
The three men are like musicians tuning their instruments.
"The kicker is entirely relying on the other two guys so his rhythm doesn't change,'' said head coach Mike Benevides. "Kicking is no different than a golf swing. If your rhythm is off you are going to be off.''
The Lions originally signed free-agent Sean Ortiz to replace McCullough. During training camp the decision was made to use Tim Cronk, a second-year player from Bishops, who also can play fullback. Ortiz was released.
With Cronk still learning, the 12-year veteran Reid was pressed into duty. It was the first time in two years he'd snapped for converts and field goals.
"I was terrified last game,'' laughed the 35-year-old native of Richmond, B.C. "Honestly, it's not something I had really kept up with.
"I was a little nervous. If I screw up the whole thing screws up.''
Reilly held for field goals briefly in college and was a kicker at high school. He did some backup work in practise last season, but has undergone a steep learning curve this year.
"It's tough because we've gone through a couple of different centres,'' said the third-year quarterback from Kennewick, Wash. "Every time you change the centre it's a little bit different dynamic. The ball comes out at a different speed, the rotation is different and the location is different. It's been a bit of an adjustment.''
It's Reilly's job to get the ball, put it on the tee to McCallum's liking, and spin the laces away from the kicker. Ideally it should take 1.3 seconds from the time the ball leaves Reid's hands to McCallum kicking it. That's about heartbeat, but a lot can go wrong.
"Nobody notices until something goes wrong,'' said McCallum. "I miss hit lots of field goals last year that went in.''
When there's a missed field goal the finger of guilt is usually pointed at the kicker even though his timing can could have been disturbed by a bad snap or the holder mishandling the ball. It's something both Reilly and Reid want to avoid.
"We have one of the greatest kickers of all time back there,'' said Reid. "I don't want to mess with his stats or his greatness because I can't get the ball back there properly.''
Reilly knows who will be replaced if too many kicks are missed.
"Paul has been consistent throughout his career,'' he said. "If the ball doesn't' go through the uprights I would venture to guess it's not his fault.''
Benevides said the plan is to have Cronk taking over the snapping duties "over the next couple of weeks.'' That will ease some of the workload currently being carried by Reid.
"Over 18 games, that's a lot of wear and tear,'' said the coach.
McCallum led the league with 203 points last season, was selected an CFL all-star and was named Most Outstanding Special Teams Player. He thinks he can be even better this year.
"You can always be better,'' he said. "The ones I missed (last year) I shouldn't have missed. I just have to make sure the opportunities I have, I make the most of them.
"I shouldn't miss. Why can't a kicker be 100 per cent every season?''