Kicking in Cleveland is one of the reasons the 33-yard PAT isn't so automatic.
The Bengals' Mike Nugent is halfway to his goal of kicking 20 years in the NFL. Which means if he makes it, half his career will come dealing with extra points that weren't as automatic as they were during his first 10 seasons.
"I understand the logic behind it. It makes sense,' said Nugent Wednesday, the day after the NFL owners moved the PAT from 20 yards to 33 yards. "But I guess where I would disagree with it is it's an offensive-driven game in every way. People want to see Andy Dalton throw for 500 yards. It's a points-driven industry. You can make the argument scooting us back makes the game more difficult."
Not that difficult. But just difficult enough that the Bengals are concerned that the shift puts a burden on teams in the North and East divisions while giving teams in the South and West a competitive edge. Nugent is 89 percent in his career from 33 yards (8-for-9), just about the NFL average of 91 percent. And Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons thinks that percentage will rise for PATs because they're to be kicked from the middle of the field.
But Simmons wonders about a 33-yard PAT on Dec. 6 into the Dawg Pound, when the Bengals are scheduled to play in Cleveland. As opposed to the 33-yarder the Broncos have to make in San Diego on the same day.
"I think the 91 percentage is high in some places like Baltimore. In some places like Cleveland and in some places like Pittsburgh,' Simmons said of places the Bengals play every year. "Especially in December.
"I just have a little bit of a competitive-edge issues like a lot of guys that play in cold-weather climates as opposed to indoors in Indianapolis in December."
It will be recalled the last time we saw Nugent, he was drilling a Bengals-long 57-yard field goal indoors in Indy on Jan. 4 in the Wild Card Game, a feat most likely not accomplished at Paul Brown Stadium. Nugent plans to kick his new PATs the same way.
When Nugent started kicking again in April, he took his PATs from the 33 because he saw how the first two preseason games went last year, when he hit all five extra point tries from the new range, and he figured it was here to stay in 2015. He thinks it is still automatic, even though the percentage is sliding from virtually 99 percent to 91.
"I'm going to kick a 20-yarder the same way I hit a 54 or 55-yarder. You want to hit the exact same ball," Nugent said. "I think (it will matter) once the season gets late and you got guys kicking in domes and we're kicking in Pittsburgh and Cleveland and the fields are beat up and it's windy…The same thing with field goals. If I'm kicking a field goal at Indy in a playoff game, that 57-yarder is easier in January inside than it is in Cincinnati. It's one of those things it's still the same thing."
Nugent is 33, working on a new two-year deal, and erased a mid-season slump last season with a torrid finish. He hit 15 of his last 16 field goals before nailing his career long of 57 yards just before halftime to keep the Bengals breathing in the Wild Card Game against the Colts.
(Take a guess where the one miss came and when? A 50-yarder on Dec. 28 in Pittsburgh.)
He figures he is now about the age of future Hall-of-Famer Adam Vinatieri when he met Vinatieri for the first time 10 years ago. Vinatieri, who kicked in the Pro Bowl in Arizona back in January at age 42, ran into Nugent during the week and offered some advice about longevity. Nugent, who lives in Arizona during the offseason, has long looked up to Vinatieri.
"When I retire, I would love to have people say the same things about me. I model my career after him," Nugent said. "I'm not 40 years old yet, but I'm getting to that age where my (regimen) is becoming more important. I asked him what he does to stay at such a high level and he says you can't get lazy or take it for granted. And you can supplement what you do. You don't have to do 450-pound squats, but you can do things like yoga and Pilates."
It was Vinatieri, of all people, who bore the brunt of the experiments at the Pro Bowl that included not only 33-yard PATs, but goal posts narrowed from 18 to 14 feet. A fuming Vinatieri missed two extra points and a 38-yard field goal. Instead of the longer PAT, Simmons prefers the 14 between uprights.
After he had his own brush with greatness at Anthony Munoz's golf tournament when he spoke with the Pro Football Hall of Fame's only kicker, Jan Stenerud, Simmons understood why it may be time to reverse some field. Stenerud's field-goal percentage from 1967-85 was just 66.8 percent.
"The average last year was 84 percent," Simmons says. "Look at how much better kickers have become and I can see if there has to be some kind of an adjustment. I don't have a great answer. My best answer is narrow the goal posts. That may not help from a PAT and it may not lower that number. But it lowers the field goal numbers for sure and everyone is dealing with same thing and not the elements."
Simmons has some other ideas, too. He's uncomfortable with a 33-yard PAT for one point meaning less than a 30-yard field goal for three points.
"You can put the offense back on the two-yard line for the two-point conversion, or you can spot a 50-yard PAT for two points," he said.
The 50-yarder is not going to happen this year, and neither, technically, so does running into field problems in the AFC North this year. After starting December in Cleveland, the Bengals come home to play the Steelers before going to San Francisco and Denver finishing up the season at PBS against the Ravens on Jan. 3. Both Nugent and Simmons don' think the 33-yarder is going to increase strategy. Personally, Simmons would go more frequently with the odds on the two-point conversion, which is 47 percent. But he says with the PAT now at 91 percent, he thinks most NFL head coaches are going to continue to go with the sure thing and kick the point most of the time.
But for an AFC North team like the Bengals, Simmons thinks the longer PAT underlines having "stong, accurate kickers that can deal with the elements." He loves the fact that Ohio State's Nugent and University of Cincinnati punter Kevin Huber grew up and stayed here, Huber on the East side of Cincinnati and Nugent near Dayton.
"It's great that we have Kevin and Mike who have played high school, college and NFL here," Simmons said. "There is something to that."