News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Former AU kickers battle for position with Titans

By Teresa M. Walker
Associated Press Writer

NASHVILLE — Ah, the life of an NFL kicker.

Rob Bironas set a Tennessee record by kicking four game-winning field goals in 2006, including a 60-yarder that beat the Indianapolis Colts in December. That earned him competition in training camp from a strong-legged rookie from Auburn to make sure he doesn't get too comfortable.

Bironas, who has only two years in the NFL with the Titans, understands and actually is glad to have John Vaughn around.

"Definitely I enjoyed taking it off during the second team. Instead of 12 or 10 field goals in a row, it's five or six like how it is during the season. Instead of kicking 18 kickoffs, kicking eight or nine, so definitely it's going to help me maintain my leg a little bit better during camp," Bironas said.

It doesn't hurt that the kicker is John Vaughn who went to Auburn where Bironas spent all but a semester of his college career. Vaughn also is from Brentwood, a suburb south of Nashville.

Coach Jeff Fisher said it's a very competitive situation.

"Very impressed with what John's been able to do with his leg strength and his accuracy. We haven't had this as long as I can remember. We've had two guys who can consistently put the ball through the uprights from way out," Fisher said.

"It's going to be interesting to see how it unfolds."

Bironas won the kicking job in 2005, beating out Ola Kimrin and Jay Taylor in the first competition at placekicker the team had had since moving to Tennessee in 1997. Special teams coach Alan Lowry wanted to bring someone in to compete against Bironas in 2006 but couldn't because of the roster.

The Kentucky native did well enough, converting 22 of 28 field goals and all 32 extra points.

He beat Washington with a 30-yarder with 5:15 left, capped a 21-point comeback against the New York Giants with a 49-yarder with 11 seconds to go and beat Buffalo with his fourth game-winner of the year.

But the highlight was the 60-yarder, a franchise-record long field goal and tied for the fourth-longest field goal in NFL history.

Bironas didn't spend the offseason reveling in his success. He had two surgeries the Titans declined to detail, including one the day after players cleared out their lockers. He renovated a second bathroom in his condo by installing hardwoods. Not exactly the party circuit.

"I like the anonymous kicker," Bironas said.

"Stay under the radar. Do your job and let people talk about when it's good and move on each week doing your job. You expect to make them all whether they're game winners or short ones. That's where my goal is to do the best I can out there and let the crowd enjoy it."

Both kickers are 6-foot, 205 pounds.

Vaughn is Auburn's all-time leading scorer with 312 points, which ranks him 12th in Southeastern Conference history. He set Auburn records with 50 field goals and converted 162 of 163 extra points, and Vaughn said Lowry already has helped straighten out his kick

Vaughn had offers from Detroit, New York and Atlanta but he chose the Titans where his family has had six season tickets since the team's relocation. He has rooted for the team since he was 13.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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