Getting his kicks

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:41 AM ET

On his official website, Mike Vanderjagt has a snazzy, self-shilling video tribute which includes his enthusiasm to be a Dallas Cowboy.

Among other things, the Oakville-born NFL star also outlines his case for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

"There's nothing negative about the numbers I've put up that can say I'm not the best of all time," Vanderjagt says in the video.

"I'm the best there ever was, I can't help it."

Forget Canton for now, Cowboys coach Bill Parcells would take a successful afternoon in Irving, Tex. out of his flamboyant kicker.

Facing as crucial a contest as his team could expect in Week 2 of the NFL season, Parcells' 0-1 Cowboys face the 0-1 Washington Redskins tonight at Texas Stadium.

The status of quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who had a rough outing in Dallas' loss to Jacksonville last weekend, is front and centre among the angles eating at Cowboys fans. But so too is the kicking situation.

If Parcells had his druthers, he barely would have to think about, never mind talk to, a kicker.

After seeing botched boots lead to a pair of losses last year, Parcells convinced owner Jerry Jones to sign Vanderjagt to a three-year, $5.4-million US contract.

That was supposed to be the end of the worries. Instead, the most accurate kicker in NFL history (just ask him) has been an unexpected aggravation.

It started with a nagging hamstring injury in pre-season and ended with two missed field goals in overtime of the Cowboys' final exhibition contest.

Parcells stepped in then and decided to go with another Canadian kicker, Shaun Suisham, who promptly missed an easy 36-yarder in the season opener.

Vanderjagt, who never even made the trip to northern Florida with his new teammates, spent much of this past week ducking the media before playing coy on Friday.

"I don't know, I've been sworn to secrecy," Vandy said when asked about his status for tonight's game. "My expectations are to watch the offence and the defence. Now, whether I am on the couch or the sidelines, I am not sure."

On a lineup with trouble-making Terrell Owens and the impatient crying for Bledsoe's head, the kicking conundrum was one that Parcells had hoped to avoid.

But earlier this week, the coach said he wouldn't put his faith in Vanderjagt until he showed in practice that both his head and his leg were in the game. Parcells has said he might keep Suisham in the lineup for kickoffs and let Vanderjagt handle field goals and PATs.

Then on Friday, he brought in former Arena League star, Carlos Martinez for a tryout.

Vanderjagt, meanwhile, makes the point that his suspect practice form is irrelevant.

BETTER IN GAMES

"In 12 years, I have not been a very good practice kicker," the former Argonaut told Dallas media this week. "That is not going to change. For some reason, I kick a lot better in games than I do in practice and pre-season.

"I was one-for-three in the pre-season when I didn't miss all (of the 2003 season)."

Vanderjagt acknowledged that he diplomatically had mentioned that fact in building his case with Parcells to get the call tonight. But unlike his occasional outbursts in Indianapolis, Vanderjagt opted to bite his tongue rather than further rile his crusty coach.

"You know what? I am an honest person," Vanderjagt said. "But I am not going to be honest right now. I really don't feel like getting into it at this point. Everything is fine. It's up to Bill what happens. He is the coach."


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