Matt Prater wants to become a better field-goal kicker. Jason Elam has handled those duties for the Broncos since 1993.
You’d think that combination of circumstances would leave the incumbent thinking that an embargo on tips and tidbits about the craft would be advisable. But that isn’t the case with Elam.
Prater wants to learn, and Elam is more than happy to oblige, which is reason No. 732 why the longtime Bronco is one of the highest-quality individuals to pass through the Broncos locker room, whether it’s located on the north side of Denver off Logan Street or in the windblown high prairies of the southern suburbs.
Prater knows he needs the help; his 1-of-4 performance on field goals for the Falcons in Weeks 1 and 2 helped lead to his release in spite of his splendid work on kickoffs, which included a 75-percent touchback ratio and an average of 71.3 yards a kick.
Elam’s first lesson for Prater focused on controlled kicking, “because it’s a different swing from a kickoff,” the 15-year veteran explained. “You’re trying to kill the ball on a kickoff, it’s all out; it’s a driver. The average field goal’s 34 yards, so you’ve got to get your mind around only kicking as hard as you have to, using the 7-iron. So that’s more along the lines of what I was trying to tell him.
“I heard Jack Nicklaus one time, just trying to say that in a round of golf, 75 percent of his hits are mis-hits, but he’s trying to keep it going straight. That’s what I’m trying to get across to him.”
Prater’s attention is rapt when Elam speaks. He knows there might not be a finer moment for him to acquire the tools with which a lengthy NFL career can be constructed.
“I just think of it as an awesome opportunity to learn from him, because he’s done it for so long and he knows something I don’t know,” Prater said. “I hope to learn that from him and take it wherever.
“Then when it’s my time — I don’t know when, a couple of years from now, maybe somewhere else, who knows — I hopefully can learn from him and take it wherever I go.”
Neither Daniel Graham nor Ian Gold practiced Friday as the Broncos took their work to the nearby South Suburban Sports Dome. Head Coach Mike Shanahan said he hopes to see what the two injured players can do on Saturday when the club reconvenes for a morning session. Gold is listed as doubtful for Monday night with a knee injury, while Graham is questionable due to a high ankle sprain.
Also listed as questionable is wide receiver Brandon Stokley, who practiced, but was limited in his work. Three Broncos are listed as probable: defensive end John Engelberger (shoulder), center Chris Myers (ankle), and wide receiver Javon Walker (knee). All practiced fully throughout the last three days.
In San Diego, fullback Lorenzo Neal (fibula) was ruled out. Defensive end Luis Castillo (ankle), outside linebacker Shawne Merriman (knee), and running back Michael Turner (shoulder) are questionable, while quarterback Philip Rivers (knee) is probable.