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Cowboys' Kicker Team's Quiet Star

he's paid to do. 

  "The biggest thing is that we get into a rhythm in practice and we make it game-like in practice," Folk said after Sunday's game. "We've kept that going through the whole holder ordeal, and when we keep a good game rhythm in practice, it's pretty smooth. Sure, you'd like more short kicks, but this is fine." 

  The holder ordeal, for those unfamiliar, references the drama surrounding the temporary demotion of Brad Johnson from backup to third quarterback. That was a move the coaching staff wanted to make after Johnson struggled in three starts replacing the injured Tony Romo, but could not because it developed that no one on the roster save Johnson was an acceptable holder. 

  To his credit, head coach Wade Phillips said several times, "I'm not going to send someone out there who hasn't held or can't hold. It's too important." So unable to manage the roster to accommodate three active quarterbacks, Johnson is in and Folk is glad of it. 

  And Phillips is glad to have Folk, even admitting Tuesday he can take his kicker for granted until he sees a game like last week's.  

  "When you have a game like that," he told reporters after Tuesday's walk-through practice, "it seems like every kick is crucial. He is amazing as far as calmness and everyone expecting him to always make it. I keep thinking he's not going to make them all, but it seems like he does." 

  That calmness had marked Folk since the day he walked in the door as a sixth-round draft choice a year ago. Veteran incumbent kicker Martin Gramatica tried every subtle little gamesmanship ploy he knew to unnerve the rookie in the '07 training camp in San Antonio. When nothing worked, it got in Gramatica's head instead, and Folk won the job. 

  An L.A. kid who went to Arizona, Folk knows what's ahead after this week: trips to Pittsburgh and Philadelphia in December, and probable road games if the team is fortunate enough to play extra games. Those could be close contests where the kicker will be called upon to win. Did he need a game like Sunday to prepare for those? 

  "I try to take every kick and make it look like the previous one," Folk mused. "Every kick should look the same to me, from an extra point to a game winner anywhere on the field. It's good to get the long ones out, but a short one could come haunt you. That's why it's good to keep a rhythm going from everywhere. But they should all look the same." 

  And they almost always do. When Nick Folk kicks them, they look good.                                                                                         

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