The life of a kicker is a lonely one, and Cade York's is exceptionally so without a challenger on hand at training camp. (TheLandOnDemand)
After a quiet three days, kicker Cade York has his first day in the sun
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Editor's note: Tony Grossi is a Cleveland Browns analyst for TheLandOnDemand.com and 850 ESPN Cleveland.
Takeaways from Day 4 of Browns training camp …
For three days, Cade York was the loneliest player at Browns camp. He had nobody to compete against or quiz about the playbook or share trade secrets with.
Kickers work and live in their own world, but in York’s case, it truly is a world of one. Himself.
The powers-that-be decided that after they invested a fourth-round draft choice in York, he should be left totally alone, unencumbered by another kicker, perhaps a pest, who would have been released, anyway.
“I like it because it gives me room to work on what I need to work on, get all the reps I need and not worry about how this other guy’s doing in practice. I just need to worry about how I’m doing,” York said before Saturday’s practice, the first open to fans this summer.
So on the first three days of his first training camp, while 89 other players worked, York kept himself busy fiddling with some onside kick surprises, and shagging balls for the two punters in camp and long snapper Charley Hughlett.
“We find things to do on days we’re not really doing nothing,” York said. “Especially stuff that doesn’t do wear and tear on our legs. Yesterday the punters got to get some holds in, drops, stuff like that. And then we would help out with the special teams drills, and I hit a few onsides.
“On days I’m not kicking but the punters are up, I’m helping them out, I’m shagging, I’m throwing the balls back to the snapper, stuff like that. And on days I am kicking, it’s my day to go through what I need to in my routine.”
York is on a strict pitch count, so even when he kicks on his own with a kicking tee, somebody is watching to make sure he doesn’t overdo it.
This is all part of the plan to end the franchise’s 10-year problem at the specialist position.
Even when Phil Dawson was bending kicks through a blizzard to beat Buffalo and breaking Lou Groza’s franchise record for field goals, he and his position were unappreciated by the club.
After 13 years of loyal service, the Browns gave Dawson the franchise tag two years in a row rather than reinvest long-term in him. Then they – the Joe Banner-Mike Lombardi regime -- let him walk away in free agency. They didn’t win much with him, was their thinking then, so they could lose just as easily without a $3 million-a-year kicker.
Nobody has filled Dawson’s shoes through losing season after losing season. Now that the roster is good and a Super Bowl window has opened, York arrives from LSU at the perfect time to make a huge impact and restore confidence and appreciation in a kicker.
Like the Browns, York watched Evan McPherson, Cincinnati’s rookie kicker a year ago, fuel the Bengals’ Super Bowl drive with a perfect post-season record of 20 kicks attempted (16 were field goals) and 20 kicks made.
As a result, McPherson just made history by becoming the first kicker on the NFLPA Top 50 Player Sales list. A kicker – yes, a kicker – ranked 36th in sales of officially licensed player merchandise for the period of March 1 through May 31, outselling the likes of Nick Chubb (No. 40), Travis Kelce (No. 44), Trevor Lawrence (No. 47) and Kyler Murray (No. 50).
“It’s pretty cool, especially knowing him from college, seeing him have success like that and be able to help his team out,” York said. “And it’s cool seeing the kicker position be able to have that kind of impact especially in their first year.”
It was McPherson on the opposing sideline who was forced to watch York nail a 57-yard field goal through fog to lift LSU over Florida, 37-34, in an instant classic college football game in December of 2020 that ruined the Gators’ season.
We talked about all of this before practice. At one point, York said, “I’m kicking today.”
About an hour later, everyone on the Browns’ field goal teams lined up to test York the first time at training camp with fans on hand.
After some routine phantom kicks to stretch his right leg, York lined up behind holder and punter Corey Bojorquez.
Good from 33 yards.
Good from 36 yards.
Good from 40 yards, and 43, and 46. And the last one, from 48, split the uprights perfectly down the middle and landed about a dozen yards past the target.
Six for six. Money.
It may not have been a perfect finish, like McPherson enjoyed. But a perfect start for a Cleveland kicker left you thinking that York would not be lonely for long.
The Browns did not give an attendance estimate in their post-game notes, but it looked like a few thousand fans enjoyed the day. Biggest ovations as players entered the field were for Nick Chubb and Myles Garrett. Deshaun Watson entered from the fieldhouse entrance and was lost on the field before most fans noticed. Once they did, Watson received applause and he acknowledged the fans with a wave. After the 1 ½-hour practice, Watson spent more than 30 minutes posing for selfies and signing autographs. He gave a couple young fans his jersey and a signed football shoe …
Bad luck for young receivers continued. Undrafted rookie Isaiah Weston, a strapping, 6-3 pass catcher from Northern Iowa with 4.39 40 speed, was carted off the field after suffering a knee injury. He now joins rookie David Bell (foot) and Anthony Schwartz (knee) on the shelf for a while …
Taking advantage of reps at the position continued for rookie Michael Woods, the sixth-round pick from Oklahoma, and tiny Jakeem Grant, the return specialist signed in free agency …
The punters had their day in the sun, too. Bojorquez, another left-footed find of Bill Belichick with the Patriots in 2018, displayed a stronger leg than challenger Joseph Charlton …
Former left tackle Joe Thomas, a shadow of his former self after significant post-career weight loss, is visiting this week. Thomas will serve as TV analyst on Browns preseason broadcasts. Thomas’ first year of eligibility for the Pro Football Hall of Fame comes up on this year’s ballot.