The "buzz" out of Indianapolis is that the Colts' concern about their kickoffs, voiced by Colts President Bill Polian this week, rose to a level where they brought in two kickers for a tryout.
ColtPower has learned that former 49ers kicker, Jose Cortez, was in Indy this week. Cortez, who has a reputation for being better at kickoffs than field goals, was waived by the 49ers on December 6th after being signed to fill in for two weeks for the injured Joe Nedney.
Cortez started his career in 2002 with the 49ers and has bounced around quite a bit. The knock on Cortez is that his field goal accuracy is erratic. But teams have brought him in, just as the 49ers did, when they've had an ailing kicker or as a kickoff specialist. The Redskins picked him up in December, 2002 after his release by San Francisco. But during the offseason he was waived and picked up by Kansas City. In late August, he was released by the Chiefs when Morten Andersen showed that he could still handle kickoffs.
Cortez spent the bulk of the 2004 season in Minnesota, but was released during the offseason. This year, he's done stints with the Cowboys and Eagles prior to his two-week fill-in assignment for Nedney.
Following Cortez' visit, the Colts also took a look at Tyler Jones, a kicker out of Boise State. Jones was signed in April as an undrafted free agent by the Chicago Bears. He was one of four kickers the Bears brought in to challenge incumbent Paul Edinger, who missed an NFL-high 9 field goals in 2004. But Jones was waived in late June after some offseason competition with the other kickers. A week later Jones was on board with the Browns and lasted until the late-August cuts. Since then, Jones was added to the Bears practice squad for two weeks in October before becoming a free agent once again..
The tryouts are an obvious warning shot to rookie Dave Rayner who has struggled a bit with the depth of his kickoffs as he tries to adjust to kicking the NFL's harder footballs. Whether or not the tryout was simply a way to display the level of concern to Rayner, or a move to have a serious candidate already in the wings should he falter again most likely won't be known until next week. There was no confirmation of either kicker being offered a contract yet.
Earlier this week, Polian was blunt about Rayner's performance for the first time this season, saying it was, "Not good enough. It's that simple."
"When we go out there on Sunday everybody is expected to perform to a certain level," he said.
Polian did take the sting out of the comments a bit, adding this assessment
of last weekend's performance.
"Now, why did that happen," he asked. "Did he get bad kicking balls? Is he a little bit nicked up and not saying anything to anybody? Are the directional kicking situations bothering him some? I don't know. In the end, we'll find those things out.
Former Colts and Eagles offensive guard Steve Sciullo was in an AFC South rival camp this week. He had a tryout, along with Kelvin Garmon, a journeyman who has played for the Cowboys, Chargers, and Browns.
The Patriots continue to search for depth for their secondary, working out defensive backs this week. Seattle is in the same boat, holding tryouts for three defensive backs, including New England castoff Arturo Freeman.
Another truly interesting development was the tryout by the Washington Redskins of Raghib "The Rocket" Ismail, the former wide receiver and returns specialist who was a sensation at Notre Dame. Ismail retired and was subsequently released by the Dallas Cowboy back in 2002. But he was pursued heavily by the Redskins in the spring of 2003 in hopes of luring him out of retirement. After working on a potential deal with him for almost a month, talks broke off between Ismail and Washington at the end of March that year. Ismail has been out of the NFL ever since.