OXNARD, Calif. –After Dan Bailey had perhaps the greatest rookie season for a kicker in Cowboys history, the team had to come up with creative ways to help him improve during training camp.
Unlike last year, when he was one of five kickers on the roster, he faces no formidable competition. He and kicking coach Chris Boniol can piddle with technical aspects of his swing, but then again Tiger Woods' constant changes are probably a fair example that sometimes great is enough.
So, what the Cowboys have done is try to create stressful, game-like situations in practice. Thursday's surprise scenario was as close to *last second of the Super Bowl *as can be created in a training camp practice: Make this 25-yarder and the last hour of this last padded practice of camp is cancelled, and the whole team gets to go the beach.
After Jason Garrett called the team together to explain the stakes, a clean snap and hold led to Bailey calmly stepping up and drilling the ball straight between the uprights. The team immediately ran off the field, straight for three chartered buses waiting in the parking lot.
"It's tough to replicate exactly the kind of pressure you face in a game, just because it's different," Bailey said earlier in camp. "It's hard to simulate the crowd and stuff like that, but I kind of like it. It's definitely something that I enjoy."
Bailey has been the steadiest player of camp, seemingly drilling every kick. He was almost equally as efficient last year during camp, but because he had few opportunities to prove himself in preseason games, hadn't totally won the coaches' confidence until the final cuts.
Now kicker is the least talked about position on the roster.
"It's just different," Bailey said. "You've always got to try to find something that can make you a little better, whether it's getting the ball up quicker, or working on longer field goals or certain ranges of field goals that you struggle with, or certain hashes. It's nothing really mechanical. It's more situational – different spots on the field, different game situations, kind of like what Jason's having me do. That's really all you can do."