Chiefs choose Novak to be their kicker
By ADAM TEICHER
The Kansas City Star
He’s been to 30-plus workouts for NFL teams and arrived at four different training camps hopeful but certainly never assured of a roster spot.
Nick Novak finally has a kicking job to call his own.
Novak won the competition Friday when the Chiefs informed him he will be their kicker when the regular season begins Sept. 7 against the Patriots in New England. They also told rookie Connor Barth he would be placed on waivers.
Novak, 27, has kicked in 16 games for Washington and Arizona but always as a temporary injury replacement and never as an incumbent.
“It’s awesome when you work so hard and then something like this finally happens,” Novak said. “It’s been a great seven months of competition, and now I can put it all behind me and look ahead to what I hope is a long career kicking for the Chiefs. To have it all finally come together like this and realize my dream of being an NFL kicker, it feels like I’m walking on the moon.
“The confidence is definitely there. I fully believe I’ll go up to New England and hit the game-winning field goal for the Chiefs.”
To keep the job, Novak will need to fare better than Justin Medlock or Dave Rayner, two of last year’s three Chiefs kickers. They combined to make just 16 of 24 field-goal attempts.
While the Chiefs would prefer Novak kicks for them all season and beyond, when they sent Barth home they advised him to keep his cell phone close at all times.
“They told me that if Nick doesn’t do as well as they think he will, I should stay ready,” said Barth, who kicked the last four years in college at North Carolina.
The Chiefs didn’t announce the move because of what coach Herm Edwards called “competitive” reasons. Without identifying the kicker they kept, Edwards said, “That was always a tough one. You just weigh all of the situations. They both did a great job. We feel they both can kick in this league. It’s just a matter of picking a guy and sometimes when you’re in that situation the competition is so close it’s your gut and what you feel you have to do.
“We feel we have a guy who can do it. Now we have to find out.”
Little separated Novak from Barth statistically. Barth said they both made 86 percent of their field goals at training camp and were within one yard of each other on kickoff distance. Each player made two of three preseason field-goal attempts.
The difference was in NFL experience. Novak’s 16 games as a temporary may not be much, but they are 16 more than Barth had. After last season’s experience with Medlock, a rookie who lasted only one game, the Chiefs apparently decided not to make the same decision again.
“That’s what coach Edwards told me, that I was set back a little bit because of what happened here last year,” Barth said. “I’m a rookie, but I know how this works. I thought all along I’d have to prove to them that I’m not only as good as Nick but better.”
Novak knows the history, too. He came to Kansas City twice for workouts last year and thought he had earned the job when the Chiefs instead picked Rayner to replace Medlock.
The Chiefs signed Novak and another NFL veteran kicker, Billy Cundiff, in January. Barth came along immediately after the draft.
The Chiefs also looked at other kickers and this week even signed veteran Jay Feely, whom they sent home the next day.
All the while, John Carney, the veteran kicker who finished last season for the Chiefs, lurked.
“Every day mattered,” Novak said. “Every day. Everybody they brought in along the way, they could have potentially kept them. It was an intense competition. There’s no doubt I’m a better kicker because of it. It’s definitely been a journey. I’m going to keep that competitive edge that I’ve had all offseason. I’ll need it.
“It’s time to be the Chiefs’ kicker for a long time and not just for two games,” Novak said. “It’s time to move forward and be the best kicker I can be for the Kansas City Chiefs. I’m hoping for some stability. I can finally put away my suitcase and stop living in a hotel like I’ve been doing for seven months.”