The Chargers need to trust Nick Novak.
They need to trust him to line up and knock the football through the yellow uprights. They need to trust him to handle kickoff duties. They need to trust that he’ll come through when it matters most.
And, this week, they’ll need to trust Novak when he tells the team how he feels.
The Chargers will work out kickers Tuesday, coach Anthony Lynn said Monday, as the team continues to monitor Novak’s injured back. He injured the back Thursday during warmups in Dallas, he said.
“I don’t think it’ll linger,” Novak said. “I’ve never had surgeries. I’ve never had anything that made me miss a game. Everyone has a soreness that pops up during the season … unfortunately this time it became more visible because I had to take myself out of the game. Other games, no one noticed other than the team and the people behind the scenes who knew what was going on.”
Novak said he’ll know by Thursday whether he’s healthy enough to kick Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, and it’ll be on the Chargers to decide whether to believe him.
“I consider myself tough and it’s something I’m going to certainly fight through,” Novak said. “I want to help this team. I think this team is doing very well. At this point in my career, I’m in a very good place. The last thing I want is to ever miss a game. This run, I think, is going to be a fun one. I’m definitely going to fight through.”
But trusting Novak and his self-evaluation isn’t cut and dry. As a kicker, Novak’s spot on the roster is tenuous, at best, especially considering how the Chargers have performed at that position this year.
The team has made 63.2% of its field-goal tries, worst in the NFL. The team is also a league-worst one for six from between 40 and 49 yards. And only five teams have attempted fewer kicks from 50 yards or more than the Chargers, who are one for two.
“We need to make every single one of them,” Lynn said of kicks. “You have to make 50-[yard], 50-plus field goals in this league to win. I was watching the games this past weekend, and they’re hitting from 55, 56, 57 to win a game. You have to be able to make those kicks.”
And, the Chargers don’t even like trying them.
Lynn said the team would prefer to have a healthy Novak on the roster, but if not, they won’t be unprepared like they were Thanksgiving Day when punter Drew Kaser had to kick for the first time in his career.
“I wouldn’t count that out, having two kickers on the roster right now. I would not count that out because we need an insurance policy,” Lynn said. “What happened last week, I don’t want that to happen again.”