Chris Gardocki's Uncertain Future

For five years, he has been a solid component of the Browns, game in and game out. Now, just three games away from the end of his contract, and with a new punter on the practice squad, Chris Gardocki doesn't know what the future may hold. David Carducci brings us the story from Berea...

BEREA - For five years he's been the Cleveland Browns most steady and consistent player.

Now punter Chris Gardocki finds himself just three games away from the unknown.

The 13-year veteran who becomes a free agent at the end of the year would love to sign a new contract that would keep him in Cleveland, but the Browns may have brought in his successor with the unusual signing of a punter, Derrick Frost, to the practice squad.

"I'll finish out this year, and hopefully I'll be back here," said Garocki, who signed a five-year deal back in 1999, "I'd love to be back here. Anything can happen. I'd love to be back, though. These have probably been the best five years of my career."

At 33, Gardocki and safety Robert Griffith are the oldest players on the team. Gardocki still would like to play another four to five years.

"Health wise and kicking wise, I probably feel as good as when I started," said Gardocki.

Statistically, Gardocki has not dramatically fallen off during his stay in Cleveland. In his first four seasons combined, his average punt traveled 43.7 yards. This year, he is at 42 yards, which is about what he averaged last year (41.8). Gardocki's net of 35.3 is exactly what it was last year, but his 16 kicks inside the opponents' 20-yard line is 11 shy of last year's total.

"I feel good and I'm kicking alright," said Gardocki. "I feel like I'm kicking as good as I ever have ... You look at (Rams punter Sean Landetta), he's 40, and he's still kicking the ball great."

Gardocki admitted that after the five years he has given the Browns he believes he deserves the opportunity to come back, "but I have no control over that. All I am worried about honestly is practicing today, getting to Denver and doing the best I can to help the team win."

There have not been any discussions between the Browns and Gardocki's agent, Steven Mandell, regarding a new contract.

Frost, who punted for Northern Iowa last season and was in camp this year with the Baltimore Ravens, is 10 years younger than Gardocki. His average during his senior season at the Division I-AA school was 43.9 yards with 10 punts inside the 20. While the Browns list him as a kicker, the only college statistics available on his bio are as a punter. He did boot 15 field goals, including two over 50 yards as a high-school kicker at Clayton High School in St. Louis, where he was an All-conference quarterback, linebacker, punter and kicker.

Gardocki will spend much of the week working on his timing holding for new kicker Brett Conway.

"My job is to put it down exactly how he wants it so he can be as comfortable as he can be," said Gardocki. "It will take a little while. He kicked the ball well (Tuesday), and he did pretty well on field goals.

"The Biggest thing for us is going to be timing. I try to get it down in 1.3 seconds, and so that's probably the biggest thing for him, getting used to Ryan (Pontbriand) and when he snaps, and knowing the cadence. The timing was so good with me and Phil because we've been together for so long."

Conway, a seven-year veteran from Penn State who played part of this season for the New York Giants, was signed Wednesday by the Browns to replace Phil Dawson, who broke his arm in the first quarter of the Browns' Monday night loss to the Rams.

"I found out at halftime it was broken," said Dawson, who kicked in the second half wearing a cast on his arm. "I had never broken any bone before, so I didn't know how serious it was. It wasn't until I got to the hospital the next day that I understood exactly what was going on."

The clean break forced the Browns to put Dawson on injured reserve for the rest of the year.


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