Eagles' Parrish getting his kicks in for roster spot

Punter Ken Parrish (right) is trying to join David Akers on Eagles roster.
Punter Ken Parrish (right) is trying to join David Akers on Eagles roster.
Posted: August 09, 2010

BETHLEHEM - No matter how hard Ken Parrish tries to step around the issue, he has to be thinking this is it. This is why he turned in his police badge and re-laced the cleats.

He'd been fooled once, going through San Francisco's 2007 preseason looking for a job, then not getting a single inquiry the next year, enough for him to "retire" from football and join the Stroud Regional Police Department for 1 year.

"I'm like, 'You know what, I don't want to be 30 years down the road and be like why not just keeping pushing it until there was nothing there,' " Parrish said. "So I figured, why not chase your dreams. That's what life's about."

Eagles special teams coach Bobby April is giving Parrish that shot, bringing him back for a second Eagles training camp to push the incumbent Sav Rocca for the punting job and see if he can chip in on kickoffs to reduce the strain on David Akers' left leg.

But it's been, and will be, an uphill battle.

"Ken got the baton, and when he got it he was trailing," April said. "And he's still trailing, and we're coming into the stretch and he's still got a chance at the wire."

He paused.

"If that makes sense."

"It's always a competition regardless of who they bring in," said Rocca. "The only way it's not a competition is if they bring no one in."

Rocca's edge comes from proving he can punt under the lights on Sundays. How much time Parrish or Rocca will see in Friday's preseason game against the Jacksonville Jaguars has not been determined, April said.

The Eagles are trying to make sense of what they have for kicking options. Rocca has been solid in his 3 years, with a 42.1-yard average and 26 punts downed inside the 20 last season, but hasn't wowed the Eagles since coming over from Australia.

Akers, entering his 12th year with the organization, has been a model of consistency for an NFL kicker the last decade, making nearly 82 percent of his field goal attempts.

But Akers will turn 36 in December, and his age and wear-and-tear called attention to the Eagles that they needed to bring in Parrish and find out if he can be a weapon on kickoffs, specifically directional kicks.

Rocca said he doesn't have the leg Akers, or even Parrish, has, saying he consistently can get it out to the 10-yard line. Rocca did not participate in kickoffs during yesterday's afternoon special teams session. Parrish consistently kicked balls into the end zone. Akers plugged his right foot into the turf on his first deep attempt, saying it felt like he stepped on a rock. He walked the pain off and had it checked out in the training tent before returning.

Though Parrish showed off his leg strength, Akers used a mind-over-body approach. Feeling a wind at his back, Akers purposely kicked a lower ball, which when caught by the return man, exerts enough force to drive a guy back a step. Less hang-time, but effective hang-time, he called it.

"Ultimately, I don't want anybody taking my job, so I'm going to compete as hard as I can," Akers said. "I want to be out here fighting. I don't want anybody kicking off. I want to be the kickoff guy."

The key for Rocca, though, may be Akers, who's meticulous in every detail his job entails, including the hold, which has been Rocca's job. Akers goes into his plant step as the ball is being pinned to the turf, giving him a split second to adjust.

He equated it to a golfer's mid-swing. If suddenly the tee moves or is higher or lower than expected, it throws Akers off.

"He knows that when it comes down to the holds, he's going to get what he wants when I'm holding," Rocca said.

With the youth of the team and depth needed at other positions, there may not be room for three kickers on the 53-man roster. April said it's rare for teams to carry a third kicker just for the sake of kicking off.

"For us to practice kick returns, you can use the JUGS [passing machine], but it's just not the same," April said. "You need the live pitcher coming at you instead of a JUGS machine, so that takes a lot of wear and tear off of Dave, too."

So how do you rationalize to Parrish, if he were to get cut for the third time, he wasn't just brought in for camp labor?

"We told him a lot of stuff about his competition, what he needs to do, what he needs to show," April said. "I think, in his mind, he would say that we've been very fair to him should that happen. I don't think he would have a beef with the organization at all, and I don't think he should, to be honest."

Said Parrish: "Whatever they need me as, that's what I tell them. Whatever you need me to do I'm going to make sure I'm going to bust my butt and get as best as I can at that."

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