Phil Dawson has made his past 12 field-goal attempts and is one of 12 kickers in the league who has been perfect on extra-point tries this season.
But there’s trouble afoot: The 49ers’ veteran kicker has almost burned through the once-vast supply of his favorite Nike Tiempo cleats he wears on his right kicking foot, and Sunday’s forecast calls for rain.
“I’m down to my last two. I’m trying to make ’em work,” Dawson, 41, said. “That’s a concern for a rain game. Because once those things get wet, they’re pretty much done. So I may wear an older one in this game. I don’t know. We’ll just have to see.”
One more item to think about: His next field goal will give him 400 for his career, putting him in elite company with kickers like Morten Andersen, Gary Anderson and Jason Hanson – nine altogether – that Dawson calls “the Mount Rushmore of kickers.”
“These are the guys who, when I became a kicker, I looked up to,” Dawson said this week as the 49ers prepared to host the New England Patriots on Sunday. “And I’ve been doing that for a while now. So to be amongst them, means a lot given the amount of respect I have for them.”
Many kickers ahead of him on the list spent big chunks of their careers in domed venues or fair-weather cities. Dawson played 14 years in Cleveland before joining the 49ers in 2013.
He dealt with bitter cold and long-dormant grass during San Francisco’s playoff game in Green Bay, and there were a few showers when the 49ers played the Jaguars in London midway through the 2013 season.
But he otherwise hasn’t weathered any precipitation as a 49er. On Sunday, he plans to arrive early at Levi’s Stadium, where he’ll inspect the field and then decide what type of cleat to wear on his left foot, which plants into the ground when he kicks. He has several options.
“I’ll bring them all on Sunday,” Dawson said. “And sometimes (I’ll) even change them throughout the course of the game. Because you walk out there in pregame and the field looks great, and by the time these big boys get out there and start tromping around, it gets pretty beat up. Sometimes you wear a different one in the second half than you did in the first quarter.”
Dawson’s attention to detail has kept him in the NFL for nearly 18 seasons. He obsesses over wind direction, wind speed and field conditions. He not only was the first player on the field in Green Bay on Jan. 5, 2014, he was the first person to venture outside in a minus-10-degree wind chill. Dawson made all three field-goal attempts that day, including the 33-yard game winner as time expired.
“I don’t know if I’ve been around, regardless of position, a person that takes his individual job to the level that Phil takes it to,” 49ers coach Chip Kelly said. “The amount of work that he puts in to be so special at his craft. I don’t care if Phil was a kicker or an inside linebacker or a defensive end or whatever, he has it down. He’s been in the league a long time for a reason.”
Dawson said rain would add a layer of concern to Sunday’s game. And so will his milestone. But the veteran has turned worrying into an art form.
“They’re all different,” he said of his experiences in inclement weather. “If you perform well in one bad-condition day, that doesn’t mean you’re prepared for the next.”
Note – Wide receiver Torrey Smith, who has been slowed in the past two games with a back injury, is questionable for Sunday’s game with a shoulder injury he suffered late in the most recent game.
Smith has played in all 89 games of his career. He sat out Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s practices; he was limited in Thursday’s and Friday’s sessions. If he can’t play, Rod Streater and Aaron Burbridge likely will fill in.
Meanwhile, outside linebacker Aaron Lynch still is dealing with a tender ankle stemming from the 49ers’ Oct. 23 loss to Tampa Bay. He is out for Sunday’s game against the Patriots. Cornerback Rashard Robinson (ankle) is questionable.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski is out for the Patriots after taking a big hit in Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks.
NFL kickers with 400 or more career FGs
- 1. Morten Andersen 565
- 2. Gary Anderson 538
- 3. Adam Vinatieri 522*
- 4. Jason Hanson 495
- 5. John Carney 478
- 6. Matt Stover 471
- 7. John Kasay 461
- 8. Jason Elam 436
- 9. S. Janikowski 401*