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Longwell Keeps Memory Short


If Green Bay Packers kicker Ryan Longwell wanted to look back over his professional career, this week's opponent would come up a few times in the scrapbook of his memory.

There would be a page for the heartache of 1997, when in his second NFL game Longwell missed a 28-yard field goal -- having already converted three prior attempts -- that would have defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in what went down as a 10-9 loss.

And there would be a page for the triumph of 2000, when his 38-yarder defeated the Eagles 6-3, in what was the first game-winner for Longwell and first win of Mike Sherman's career as head coach.

But ever-aware of his past with Philadelphia, Longwell doesn't spend a lot of time looking back. Not over his misses, or even his makes.

And through eight games this season, Longwell has nothing but the latter: a perfect 38-of-38 for field goals and PATs combined.

"I take it one kick at a time," Longwell said this week. "I go into every kick with a clean slate, and whether I've made 20 in a row or whether I've missed two in a row, it doesn't matter: you've got to make the next one."

It's that attitude that allows Longwell to commit to the mindset that his job is never safe.

Never is for a kicker, he figures. Even if that kicker is under contract through 2005. Even if that kicker is three field goals shy of the club's all-time record for career makes. Even if that kicker has hit 28 of his last 29 field goal tries and 81 straight PATs.

"People laugh when I say it, but I still play this job week to week," Longwell said. "I always (ask myself) after a game, 'Do I have enough to make two more weeks on this team?' I started out that way when I made the team, and I just kind of kept that same mentality throughout."

With a career field goal percentage of 82.1, Longwell has been almost automatic each of his seven seasons in Green Bay.

In 2001 he struggled, hitting only 64.1 percent of his 31 field goal attempts, but Longwell rebounded last season converting on 28 of 34 (82.4 percent).

This season Longwell is a perfect 11-of-11 on field goal tries. He made three last weekend at the Metrodome, but five of his field goals have come outdoors, including a season-long 50-yarder against Kansas City.

A kick Longwell had to lobby just to try.

"It was so windy that day that (Packers coaches) didn't want to kick it," Longwell said. "I told (special teams coordinator John Bonamego), 'I think I have a good feel for the wind. I think I can make it.'"

Adjusting to weather conditions is the only time Longwell says he bothers to reflect on past kicks. Otherwise he just starts fresh and looks to keep things slow and steady.

In most cases, Longwell said, all it takes to get the football through the uprights is an 80-percent effort.

He compares his approach to that of a golfer, suggesting that swinging his leg as hard as possible would be just as risky as a grip-it-and-rip-it technique on the links.

"There's a reason that Phil Mickelson hits the ball a country mile, but can't hit the fairway, and Fred Funk hits it 270 yards and hits every fairway," Longwell said. "There's a distinct difference in their thought pattern and their swing pattern.

"I'm the guy that is like Fred Funk that just hits it straight. And I know, effectively, how hard I have to swing to get it to go straight."

Halfway through the season, Longwell has yet to find the rough.

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