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Thursday, May 23
The Indiana Daily Student

Jets' Doug Brien knows a kicker's story all too well

If you can believe it, there actually was one NFL player this weekend whose head hung lower after his team's loss than Peyton Manning's and the Colts'. I'm talking so low that he could see between his legs when he walked, so low that he constantly ran into things, so low that ... well, you get the picture.\nHis name you ask? Doug Brien. \nWait, Doug who?\nYou know, he's that kicker for the Jets who blew the game by missing two field goals in the final 2:20 of their contest against the Steelers Saturday. Brien's first attempt to split the uprights looked as if it was bound to go in. Brien held both hands high in the air as the ball sailed toward its target, but the wind picked up and the kick fell just short, bouncing off the left end of the crossbar. An interception by Jets cornerback David Barrett gave Brien his second chance to be the team's savior. But Brien doinked this attempt from 43 yards out as well -- wide left. \nReportedly, Brien hustled out of the Jets' locker room well before any other player. Can you blame him? He was ashamed, embarrassed and distraught. I feel terrible for the guy. But alas, that is the life the NFL kicker leads. Unless you have Adam Vinatieri, most fans keep a tight leash on their kicker's foot. They are quick to praise but equally as quick to scorn. With one swift game-winning boot, a kicker can achieve glory and acclaim from fans, coaches and fellow teammates. And with one shank wide left, they can turn on you just as quickly.\nBrien knows this formula well. It was a measly eleven days ago that he held his head high after he punched a game-winning field goal through the posts in overtime to eliminate the Chargers from the playoffs. But this week's two missed kicks will forever overshadow Brien's accomplishment last weekend. \nIt's a tough job being an NFL place kicker. In fact, I'd argue that a kicker's job could quite possibly be the most difficult and pressure packed position in all of sports, especially when they are called upon to win the game. He sits on the bench most of the game and only gets in for a handful of plays. And when he does get in, he is expected to make the field goal every time. That's like expecting the quarterback to throw a perfect pass each time he release the ball or the referee making the right call every play. \nEvery time a pigskin-booter comes in at that make-or-brake point of the game, I cringe. Because I know within the next thirty seconds he will either be on the shoulders of his teammates or left alone to quietly ponder what went wrong. \nIt's easy to blame the kicker. He just doesn't fit in with the monstrous, muscle bound linebackers and linemen on the team. He's like the small dorky-looking kid that always got picked last on the playground. He looks more like your high school math teacher than a professional athlete. \nIn a couple years, no one will remember that Jets coach Herman Edwards decided to be conservative and have Chad Pennington quarterback draw to the middle of the field instead of trying to gain more yards for his kicker to have an easier go at it. They'll remember that stupid kicker blowing two chances to put his team in the lead.\nAfter his game-winning kick against the Chargers, Brien explained to reporters how he meditates daily to help him clear his mind for pressure-filled game situations. Perhaps he should use his meditation powers for something else as well, like erasing Saturday's debacle from his memory.

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