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Graham Gano Earns Kicking Role As Redskins Release Neil Rackers
ASHBURN – Graham Gano noticed Monday morning that Neil Rackers was walking out of the Washington Redskins’ facility carrying some of his stuff. Gano, confused, stopped him.
“He wished me the best of luck this year,” said Gano, who quickly realized he had won the Redskins’ placekicking job. “He said he’s pulling for me to do well. He’s a great guy.”
Rackers was released Monday morning – one of 15 players who needed to be cut from the team’s 90-man training camp roster by 4 p.m. that afternoon. One of the most reliable kickers in the NFL in the past three seasons, the team signed Rackers in April to compete with Gano for that role this season.
“These days are always tough,” Gano said. “You make friendships with the guys, a ton of guys, throughout the preseason, and to see them let go, it’s really hard. But yeah, I mean, I’m sure he’ll get an opportunity somewhere. He’s a great kicker, and you wish that you both could be here all year long, but that’s just the nature of the business.”
Gano went 31-for-41 for the Redskins last season, which, at 75.6 percent, but him 28th out of the 33 kickers who had at least 18 field goal attempts. Five of those field goal attempts were blocked, mostly the result of protection issues, and the resulting 86 percent success rate would put him in the top half of the league.
Rackers, went 32-for-38 on field goal attempts in Houston last season – an 85.2 percent conversion rate that ranked him 15th.
In fact, since Gano entered the league in 2010, his 73.8 percent conversion rate on field goals puts him only ahead of Nick Folk, now with the New York Jets, amongst the 32 kickers who have had at least 40 attempts. Rackers, by comparison, was third at 88.2 percent behind only Tennessee’s Rob Bironas and Atlanta’s Matt Bryant.
“I feel like I’ve improved for sure,” Gano said. “I think more mature as a kicker in this league, and I feel like I did a good job last year but I’m just looking to improve this year and keep getting better.”
Gano made 26 of 33 field goal attempts in organized drills during practice, but did not attempt a single field goal in one of the three preseason games. Rackers went 28-for-33 and made one of two field goals in the preseason, making a 28-yarder but missing a 54-yarder at Chicago on Aug. 18.
Gano beat out Shayne Graham, now in Houston, and Clint Stitser last year to earn a second season with the Redskins.