Powerful Raiders rookie kicker had roller-coaster season
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- This miss didn't sting as much.
Sebastian Janikowski attempted a 58-yard field goal against the Miami Dolphins that fell far short. It would have eaten at Janikowski earlier in the season. But the Raiders (13-4) beat the Dolphins 27-0 to advance to the AFC title game Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens (14-4).
Janikowski, troubled off the field before joining the Raiders, has matured in his rookie season, learning to take the hits with the misses.
"I've probably relaxed more out there," he said. "Earlier I put a lot of pressure on myself, because I wanted to do well. But it wasn't working out. I just relaxed more, and as the guys got confidence, I got confidence."
The pressure of the postseason isn't an issue.
"I don't think of it at all, the pressure or whatever. You've got to take it game by game," he said. "I've played in a national championship -- I know this is bigger -- but I'll just kind of do the same thing, the same routine."
Janikowski got off to a slow start, making just seven of his first 13 field goal attempts. He withdrew, keeping a low profile in the locker room and refusing to talk to reporters.
This week, Janikowski was all smiles -- even without the 58-yarder.
The Raiders took a chance on Janikowski out of necessity. Their eight losses last season came by a touchdown or less, and four of those were by a field goal or less.
Oakland took Janikowski with its top draft pick, 17th overall, making him the first kicker taken in the first round since 1979.
At Florida State, Janikowski, a two-time All-America, was known for his powerful leg. He connected on better than 80 percent of his field goals with the Seminoles.
In helping Florida State to a perfect record and national title in 1999, Janikowski was the No. 3 scorer in the country, hitting 23 of 30 field goals and all 47 extra points. Also, 57 of his 83 kickoffs went for touchbacks.
He finished third on the school's career scoring list with 324 points and was the only two-time recipient of the Lou Groza Award for the nation's top kicker.
The native of Poland, where he was a soccer star, like his father, also established a reputation for partying as hard as he kicked.
He was acquitted in the offseason of trying to bribe a Florida police officer outside a party. He also was arrested for alleged possession of a drug called GHB, also known as the date-rape drug because it can cause blackouts when mixed with alcohol. That case was scheduled to go to trial in April.
Regardless, Janikowski arrived at training camp with great promise. He won over his teammates and head coach Jon Gruden when he nailed a 53-yard field goal in practice -- saving the squad from threatened wind sprints.
But Janikowski had it rough from the start. In addition to his misses, he had a bout with cellulitis, a bacterial infection in his foot. Janikowski was hospitalized for intense antibiotic treatment and missed two games.
Despite his troubles, Janikowski did put up some respectable numbers. His 54-yarder tied for first in the AFC for longest field goal. He made all 46 of his extra points, ranking second in the league, and accounted for 112 points.
Now he's looking toward the Ravens, who gave Tennessee Titans kicker Al Del Greco problems last weekend. Two field goals were blocked, and Del Greco, widely regarded as one of the best kickers in the league, missed another.
The Ravens beat the Titans 24-10 to earn the trip to Oakland.
"I'm not going to change anything. I'm just going to do my style," Janikowski said. "If you change it, that's when you screw up."
And he's not going to count on the power of his kicks to scare off opponents
"There's a lot of guys with strong legs out there," he said. "They're not going to mind. They'll do anything for a block."