BEREA — Time and time again, Phil Dawson has proven to be one of the top clutch kickers in the NFL.
His post-kick celebrations, however, have always left something to be desired.
The latest examples came Saturday, when Dawson made the game-tying and game-winning field goals in the Browns’ 27-24 preseason victory at Green Bay. He followed both by awkwardly strutting toward the bench while pumping his arms in an indescribable manner.
Suffice to say, “Dancing with the Stars” won’t be inviting the 35-year-old Texan to compete anytime soon.
“I have a habit of doing stupid little things after I make big kicks,” a chuckling Dawson said Monday at training camp. “After the first one, heck, I don’t even know what that was. On the second one, though, I was showing everyone that we were going home. No one wanted to go to overtime, even Green Bay’s players, so I didn’t see anyone complaining.”
Dawson’s game-tying kick — a 58-yarder with 1:27 left in regulation — was the longest of his life. It topped the 56-yarders he converted with Cleveland in 2008 at Buffalo (regular season) and at the New York Giants (preseason).
The game-winning boot against the Packers was no chip shot, either, covering 46 yards as time expired.
Dawson, though, downplayed the significance of both tries because they occurred in an exhibition game.
“I like it when it goes through, obviously, but the truth is it really only matters how you kick in those 16 games that count,” the 5-foot-11, 200-pounder said. “All of this — the practices and the preseason games — is just to be ready for what happens on Sundays.”
Dawson has answered the call on game day, and then some, since joining the Browns for their 1999 expansion season. He came to town after being cut by the Raiders and Patriots, but promptly beat out veteran Chris Boniol and Danny Kight to win the job that he has now held for 12 years.
Along the way, Dawson has made a team-record 83.3 percent of his field goal attempts, which ranks eighth in NFL history.
Even more impressive, only Mike Vanderjagt and Matt Stover have made more field goals while owning a higher career percentage in the 90-year-old league.
“I’ve always prided myself on being a guy that tries to make the kick to help this team,” said Dawson, whose 966 points rank third all-time in Cleveland. “It’s like what happened on Saturday. I wasn’t lobbying to try (the 58-yarder), but I was making sure I was ready in case the opportunity arose.”
Dawson, who is in the final year of his contract, has made the playoffs only once in his 11 seasons with the Browns. He realizes that optimism abounds during training camp, but is typically tempered before the leaves start to fall from the trees.
Because of those past disappointments, the married, father of three isn’t jumping to any conclusions about the 2010 squad, especially after a lone preseason game. Yet, he understands why so many fans have a little more pep in their step this week — because some of his teammates do, too.
“It’s still early and I’ll wait to make a judgment on this team, but the result we got the other night was the one we wanted,” Dawson said. “To execute like that is refreshing whenever it happens. What I will say is if we execute and prepare properly, that game gave us a glimpse of how good we can be.”
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.