It’s not news anymore when Morten Andersen makes a field goal. No more than it is when Larry Bird makes a free throw. Big deal. And the sun also rises.
Andersen, proud property of the New Orleans Saints, has all but taken the suspense out of football’s 3-point play. Around the league, other kickers might describe his talents as obscene.
In fact, using the Bird analogy is almost a disservice to Andersen. Inside 40 yards, Andersen is more automatic than a Bird free throw, having made 94% of his field goal attempts from that distance in a 7-year career.
As a total package, Andersen may be the best kicker ever. Leg strength? Fifty percent of his kickoffs are never returned. Fifty percent .
Andersen is so good that he doesn’t even fear the recent return of Ron Brown, the Rams’ kick returner and former gold-medal sprinter. Andersen’s glad to see him back.
“Yes,” Andersen said. “Because he’ll be taking a knee in the end zone. That’s cocky to say, I guess.”
No brag, just kick.
Ending up in Andersen’s conference is a kicker’s kick of death. Ask Mike Lansford of the Rams, who might have made a Pro Bowl by now had it not been for Mr. Andersen, the National Football Conferences’s representative each of the past 3 years. Seasons change, but statistics don’t. After 10 weeks this season, Andersen again leads the conference in scoring with 78 points. Guess who’s second?
“He kind of sets the standard and gives me something to shoot for,” said Lansford, who has 72 points.
Not that Lansford loses sleep over Andersen or worships the ground he kicks on, but Andersen seems to bring out the best in his competition.
Through the years, Lansford has had some of his best days against the Saints, most recently a 4-field goal performance 2 weeks ago. “Every time we play them I think he gets motivated by the fact I’m on the other sideline,” Andersen said.
Lansford and Andersen meet again Sunday in Anaheim Stadium. Yes, they take their battles seriously, but off the field the two are casual friends and part-time practical jokers.
“You see, he’s got an ego problem,” Lansford said. “Yes, I like to kick well against him. No question, we have an indirect rivalry going.”
Lansford, after learning Andersen was on a conference-call with area reporters, slipped into the press room and anonymously joined the interview.
Andersen was answering a question about the possibility of breaking Tom Dempsey’s 63-yard field goal record.
Anderson: “I tell you I’d love to try, but it’s a tough record. It could be done, but it would have to be a freak-type situation. I think a little wind or something would have to happen. You’d have to feel great that day.
Lansford: “Or maybe kick downhill.”
Andersen: No answer.
Lansford: “Morten, seriously, don’t you think looks have a lot to do with Lansford’s success?”
Andersen: “Well, I don’t know, I’m not married to the guy. I can’t really answer that question, I’ve heard some rumors down here.”
Lansford: “Well, tell me a little more about Wendy (a mutual friend).”
Andersen: “You son of a . . . Get out of here! And get a shoe!”
It was Lansford’s last shot at Andersen until Sunday. With Andersen, you take what shots you can get.
This season, he has made 19 of 24 field goal attempts. Three of his 5 misses were from 53, 50 and 49 yards.
No, it’s not big news when Andersen makes a field goal, but an all-out bulletin when he misses. Incredibly, it happened only last Sunday, when Andersen, a left-footed kicker, pulled a 49-yard attempt that could have beaten Washington in the game’s final seconds.
“I pulled a Lansford,” Andersen said, laughing. “No, no, I’m just kidding.”
Understand, it’s not often that Andersen has to explain his failures. Born in Denmark, Andersen has been a success since his first kick at Michigan State. The NFL scouts arrived soon after.
“You make the kick on the sideline,” he said. “I think you make it in your mind, you visualize. Sometimes you have lapses in concentration and those things happen. Obviously, it just shows you that you are a person, you are not a machine. It reminds you once in a while that it’s a fact.”
Andersen--and Lansford to some extent--has brought new-found credibility to kickers, once considered the necessary scourge of NFL rosters.
Andersen has changed all that. The Saints don’t have a bigger offensive weapon.
“I feel very much a part of this team,” he said. “I feel they accept me, and the coaches. I feel a very important part of the offense. When I fail, it hurts that much more, because I don’t feel separated from the guys. . . . I’ll get involved in the game.”
You mean unlike Lansford?
“We respect each other professionally,” Andersen said. “I know I respect him. He’s a threat to my incentive bonuses.”
Linebacker Mel Owens is doubtful again this week because of his sprained ankle. . . . For the Saints, fullback Craig (Ironhead) Heyward is out with a knee injury. Tailback Dalton Hilliard (toe) and receiver Lonzell Hill (foot) are questionable. . . . As of Wednesday afternoon, there were 4,400 tickets left for Sunday’s game. In order for the local television blackout to be lifted, the game must be a sellout by 1 p.m. today.