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Chargers Plan to Set a Pace, Finish With a Kick

April 23, 1986|STEVE DOLAN | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — In an attempt to get more production from their kickers this season, the Chargers are cutting back on kicking in training camp.

The Chargers are concerned that their kickers overextended themselves last year, possibly leading to placekicker Rolf Benirschke's season-ending groin injury and punter Ralf Mojsiejenko's decline as the season progressed.

Benirschke suffered his injury stretching before a preseason game last summer. He kicked extra points in the season opener at Buffalo but was unable to participate after that.

Though Benirschke kicked the same amount in last year's training camp as in previous seasons, the Chargers think that by kicking less this year, chances are reduced his injury will recur.

"We don't really know the cause (of last year's injury)," said Hank Bauer, Chargers special teams coach. "However, we will be very guarded in the amount and types of kicking and conditioning he does this year. We want him to be stronger and fresher all year, as opposed to being in midseason form the first game and petering out."

Mojsiejenko, a 1985 rookie, had a 46.4-yard punting average through five games. That dropped off toward the end of the season, and he finished with an average of 42.6.

"I think he got tired and lax of technique," Bauer said. "Kickers are very unique in that they perform a skill. They get very bored during practice. Over the course of a long season, they tend to kick themselves out. Look at Ralf. He went downhill (at the end of 1985)."

Until last week, the Chargers were concerned about whether Benirschke was making an uphill climb from last season's injury. But after the Chargers had Benirschke kick into the wind for two consecutive days, they were satisfied that he was healthy.

Before Benirschke's performance, the Chargers had considered drafting a placekicker in the third or fourth round next week.

"Rolf has done so well that he has his job back, probably," said Ron Nay, the Chargers director of scouting. "We'll probably get someone to test him, but it won't be a high draft choice."

Bauer said he expects to have competition for both kickers during training camp. He said it was uncertain whether the Chargers would draft a placekicker and punter or sign free agents.

Benirschke, a 10th-year player, is the Chargers' all-time leading scorer.

"I told Rolf he's not the incumbent," Bauer said. "Rolf still has to compete to prove he's the best guy. We'll be hard-pressed to find somebody better than Rolf. We know his abilities."

In last year's training camp, the Chargers contemplated having Mojsiejenko do the punting and placekicking. However, Benirschke won his old job back early in the exhibition season.

Mojsiejenko handled the punting and kickoffs.

"As a rookie, he wanted to prove himself right away," Bauer said. "Every day was like an exhibition (game) for him. That's not going to be the case this year. He can come in to be a team punter, not an individual punter. He can refine his skills. He has proven he's an asset to this ballclub."

In the long run, the Chargers hope that fewer preseason kicks will calculate to better end of the season kicks in 1986.

Charger Notes

Ron Nay, Chargers director of scouting, on the importance of the draft: "To the Chargers, it's very important. With the players we got from the USFL, we feel this could be the draft to get us back into playoff contention."

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