Lawrence Tynes wears earplugs to block crowd noise when he attempts field goals and extra points for the New York Giants. What he heard in a deli two days after kicking his team into the Super Bowl for the second time in four years came through loud and clear.
Tynes, a native of Scotland whose 6-foot-1, 194-pound frame doesn’t match that of most National Football League players, and his wife, Amanda, were eating breakfast in Oakland, New Jersey, on Jan. 24 as diners a few feet away discussed the Giants’ championship chances.
Some complained that the game against the New England Patriots on Feb. 5 will be indoors at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, and the players wouldn’t have to worry about bad weather.
“I wanted to say, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Tynes said in an interview at the Giants’ practice facility in East Rutherford, New Jersey, last week. “But I enjoy the fans’ perspective. They’re the ones who pay the bills, and it’s cool to hear that.”
Anonymity is more a product of position than success for NFL kickers such as Tynes and Stephen Gostkowski of the Patriots.
When Tynes booted a 31-yard field goal to give the Giants a 20-17 victory against the San Francisco 49ers for a Super Bowl berth, he became the first kicker to end two overtime playoff victories. Four years earlier, his 47-yarder in Green Bay in the extra period sent New York to its last Super Bowl, where they beat the Patriots 17-14.
Tynes also has converted nine of his past 10 fourth-quarter field-goal attempts.
Though not as frequently used or well-paid as their teammates -- kickers had the second-lowest average salary by position, according to the NFL Players Association -- they often enter the spotlight during high-pressure situations.
“It’s either an ‘A’ or an ‘F,’” Tynes said. “Either you made it or you didn’t, there’s no almost.”
Giants defensive end Justin Tuck jokingly called Tynes “kind of arrogant,” and said the team has fed off his confidence.
“You have to bring a bit of edge to this position,” said Tynes, 33. “I want the guys to have all the faith in the world in me when I step onto that field.”
Kickers and punters made an average of $1.69 million last year, the second lowest of all positions, according to midseason numbers from the NFL Players Association. Tight ends made $1.66 million. Quarterbacks such as the Giants’ Eli Manning and the Patriots’ Tom Brady had the highest average at $4.51 million.
Tynes made $1.2 million and Gostkowski $1.7 million, respectively, according to the NFLPA database.
“I’m not putting my limbs on the line every snap like these guys,” Tynes said. “We get paid enough for what we do.”
Gostkowski, who has spent his whole six-year career in New England, was 32 of 37 on field-goal attempts this year, and 10 of 13 from 40 yards or longer.
The 28-year-old is one of the NFL’s best at controlling field position through his kickoffs, according to Aaron Schatz, editor-in-chief of FootballOutsiders.com. In a Jan. 1 game against Buffalo, Gostkowski kept the Bills’ offense to an average starting field position at their own 19 yard line following nine kickoffs.
“He was putting them in the corners, he was putting them deep,” Bills kickoff returner Justin Rogers said after the loss. “I didn’t have much of a chance.”
Football Outsiders combines advanced offensive, defensive and special teams metrics into one measure of team efficiency. Schatz said that the kick and punt teams are about a third as important as the offense and defense.
“The discrepancy is smaller because there are fewer special-teams plays,” Schatz said in a telephone interview.
Postseason failure can halt a kicker’s career. Mike Vanderjagt’s eight years with the Indianapolis Colts ended after the Pro Bowl kicker missed a 46-yard attempt with 18 seconds remaining in a 2006 playoff loss.
Scott Norwood, whose 47-yard miss to the right in the 1991 Super Bowl gave the Giants a 20-19 victory against Buffalo, had never converted a kick of that distance on grass. He was waived the following year and never played again in the NFL.
Tynes said he wouldn’t be wearing a Giants jersey today had he missed the 2008 kick in Green Bay. He said his success in big games is based on preparation.
“You just create a habit out of doing it the right way,” he said. “The only thing I have to rely on is my routine.”
Tynes estimates that he’s kicked more than 4,000 balls in practice this season. His typical training session begins with 12-15 kickoffs, followed by a stretching session, then roughly 25 kicks with long snapper Zak DeOssie and holder Steve Weatherford. He finishes practice with team drills, kicking field goals in game-like situations.
“Their work ethic is tremendous, they’re always staying out extra,” Tuck said. “Most times you’ll see kickers, they’ll kick the first part of practice, and go in and be done with it.”
Tynes’s latest game-winner came on a rain-soaked grass field at Candlestick Park. He and Gostkowski welcome the Indianapolis roof.
“In New England, we get awful weather and it’s cold,” Gostkowski told reporters yesterday. “It’s nice to not have to bundle up to play.”
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