Thursday, January 14, 2010
How are the Chargers preparing for Sunday's playoff game? We speak to all-pro kicker Nate Kaeding about the team's matchup against Jets.
MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. The lightning bolt flags are flying from car windows, the avocados are being ground into guacamole, and no one with a big screen TV has to be lonely this weekend. The Chargers host the New York Jets at Qualcomm Stadium this Sunday as playoff season begins for San Diego. The Chargers may very well be the hottest team in the NFL right now, but as Chargers GM A.J. Smith says, during the playoffs the 2009 record means nothing. The team has prove itself all over again. Joining us now, I’m very pleased to welcome my guest, Nate Kaeding, kicker for the San Diego Chargers. Nate was selected as the starting place kicker for the 2010 AFC Pro Bowl team, and, Nate, welcome to These Days.
NATE KAEDING (Place Kicker, San Diego Chargers): Thanks for having me.
CAVANAUGH: Now tell us, if you will, how is the team preparing for its matchup against the Jets. I mean, actually what are you guys doing?
KAEDING: You kind of hit it on the head there with the quote from our general manager, A.J. Smith. It’s a bit of a trick coming into the playoffs because we’re coming off a great run in the regular season, having won our last 11 games and – but it really is kind of a transformation into what we call this second season where one bad day and everything gets washed away with a loss and, you know, our primary season goal of winning a championship is gone. So you kind of have to reset your mind and just get ready to go out and play your best game to date and then if you win that one then you get ready to play the next one. And – But on the flip side of that, and that’s kind of the paradox of the whole thing, is you have to kind of treat it like a regular week because if you start doing things out of your comfort zone and that you aren’t used to doing and trying to do too much then that can set you up for failure down the road. So we’re trying to keep things normal, just with the regular week of preparation and hoping to go out and get that first victory on Sunday.
CAVANAUGH: So it’s a hard business trying to keep your mindset on an even keel knowing what – this game is looming on Sunday.
KAEDING: Yeah, exactly. And, you know, it’s hard on a regular Sunday during the regular season but then you can kind of – you can tell a change throughout the community and I kind of try to stay away from everything, with just the way people are talking to you and, like you said, the, you know, the flags and the Charger fever kind of hits a higher pitch here and it’s, you know, it’s tough to kind of stay grounded and stay away from it but that’s part of the trick of being a professional athlete, is just going about your business and going out and getting the job done regardless of the circumstance.
CAVANAUGH: Now I know that I said – I had that quote from your GM about the 2009 record meaning nothing in the playoffs but you guys have won 11 games in a row and I wonder if there’s this idea that – about how to carry that momentum forward to this game?
KAEDING: It doesn’t matter but it does, in a sense…
KAEDING: …where we know how to win and we’re on that streak. I mean, it’s certainly – you know, you certainly would’ve liked to win your last 11, it’s not a bad problem to have, you know. And we know how to win and winning breeds winning and we’re going to, you know, go out and we have a recipe that’s been successful for us, and it’s just a matter of continuing on – that on through here through the playoffs. And we know we got our hands full coming in with New York, a lot like any team. There’s only eight left so they’re all going to be good at this point in time. And – But that’s definitely in the back of your mind, that confidence boost, knowing that we know how to win and we’ve done it at a consistent level here the last few years.
CAVANAUGH: I’m speaking with Nate Kaeding. He’s kicker for the San Diego Chargers. And let’s talk a minute about the New York Jets. What can you tell us about your opponent on Sunday?
KAEDING: It’s kind of a unique matchup for us. It’s that classic matchup of us being a team that kind of spreads the field out where, you know, we have kind of the glamorous, the sexy players, the offense, the passing, the deep passes with, you know, our great quarterback in Philip Rivers, and a lot of great wide receivers and, of course, LaDainian Tomlinson. And just very explosive versus the Jets who are this classic, grind it out, physical, tough, defensive team who loves to run the football and possess the football for long periods of time. So it’s going to be a, you know, it’s going to be a challenge for us, for sure, but it’s going to be a great matchup. And, you know, we’re confident with the product we have on the field going against anybody.
CAVANAUGH: I saw articles saying that this is a game of San Diego offense against New York defense. Do you see it that way?
KAEDING: Yeah, I sure do. That’s been our strength. You know, we have one of the highest scoring offenses in the league and the Jets are literally number one in defense and allowing the fewest amount of points in the NFL. So it’s – it is that classic matchup that you get here come the post season of teams that – like us that have won by scoring a lot of points and playing solid defense versus the team that’s won by preventing the other team from scoring. So something’s gotta give, obviously, come Sunday.
CAVANAUGH: Nate, the Chargers played the Jets once before in the playoffs. Didn’t win back in 2004. Do you see this Sunday’s game as a re-do? Does this make this game more special for you in any way?
KAEDING: We don’t look at it like a re-do. I mean, that’s a trap you try not to fall into…
KAEDING: …as a professional athlete. I mean, you don’t want to buy into this theory of redemption because each opportunity is unique and only comes by once. And, you know, if we go out and win this game here in the 2010 playoffs, it’s not going to make up for the loss five or six years ago. That opportunity has come and gone. And we all understand that this is a new year and a new opportunity. And, you know, we’re – just like if we go out and Sunday some – another defeat down the road, it’s not going to take that victory away from us. And you can’t get caught up in previous failed opportunities, you just got to, you know, take advantage of what’s in front of you here today and we’re going to do that.
CAVANAUGH: So the players are trying to treat this like a normal week even though it is not a normal week.
CAVANAUGH: I wonder, what’s actually your schedule for practice and so forth? Does it change at all because this is a playoff game?
KAEDING: Right, it doesn’t change. The NFL, we’re a very, very regimented deal. I mean, these head coaches and the organization, every, you know, they get scared if something’s one minute off from what it was the previous week, especially when you get on a winning streak like we have. They find a recipe for something that’s worked and, I mean, literally the meetings are at the exact same hour and minute that they were the previous Thursday and Thursday before that, and heaven forbid that something that gets thrown off or changed. It’s like, you know, the sky is falling on you. So, you know, we – The way the NFL is structured, we’ll come in Tuesday. The league mandates that every team has one day off each week, so Tuesday will be our day off. We’re not required to be in the complex at all. And then we come in and Wednesday, Thursday and Friday are basically our big workdays, our preparation days. We’ll have meetings starting at 7:30 a.m. You’re required to come in before that and get a lifting session in that’ll usually last 45 minutes, do some conditioning, weight lifting. Go to your meeting. The other guys’ll go – there are a bunch of other meetings they’ll go to, what’s called a walk through where they’ll practice without going full speed. Fifteen to twenty, twenty-five plays, preparing for what – the look that the other team’s going to be giving them. We’ll come back, we’ll eat lunch, and then we’ll be on the practice field from about one to three and then finish up with another hour meeting. So those are our big days, Wednesday through Friday. And, you know, game planning, getting ready for the different looks the next team might do. And you get off your feet a little bit Saturday and then get ready for game day on Sunday.
CAVANAUGH: They’re keeping you busy, I’ll tell you that much. What do you think will be the keys to victory for the Chargers on Sunday?
KAEDING: I think the key is just handling the situation. And that’s the good thing about our football team, is we have a lot of guys now that have been through the playoffs four or five years and the moment now isn’t bigger than us. We, you know, we know what we can do and our game is going to be bigger than the moment. And I know that sounds kind of cliché but it is, you come here and it can kind of get overwhelmed (sic)if you’re not used to it. And just going out, and we know who we are. We have a very distinct identity and we know that recipe for success. And we’re going to go out, like I said, regardless of the circumstance, and just go execute our game plan. I think that’s going to be the difference for us. And, you know, we’re awful excited about the opportunity. It doesn’t come around very often to be this far into the playoffs. We got the bye the first week and, you know, we – we’re excited but this being the culmination of, you know, we think not only this year’s hard work but the process that we’ve been through the last four or five years.
CAVANAUGH: And what’s the advantage of having this game at Qualcomm at home?
KAEDING: A huge advantage just from the fact you don’t got to get on a plane on Friday and travel, you know, like New York’s case, all the way from the east coast to the west coast. You know, you get to stay at home, you get to hang out with your family and things are more normal. In professional sports and in sports in general, comfort breeds confidence and, you know, you’re more comfortable at home. It’s the same locker room, it’s the same routine, and you get out on the field and you’re confident in yourself because, you know, things aren’t different. They’re not foreign to you. And we, you know, we’ve played very well at home traditionally and, of course, our fans, too. You know, you get their offense on the field. We get our 70,000 fans screaming, it’s a lot harder for them to communicate with each other and it’s a huge advantage to play at home.
CAVANAUGH: Hey, Nate, in wrapping up because it sounds like you have a big day ahead of you, is there anything you would like to say to the fans who are wishing great things for you and the team this weekend.
KAEDING: Just that we’ve appreciated their support and even the people out there that aren’t Charger crazy like some of them are out there with the flags flying and everything, it’s a fun time to play football and compared to, you know, I think some of the east coast towns because I think people in general tend to keep the game in perspective. And, you know, and in the end it is a game and it’s fun for all of us. And it doesn’t mean anything more to anybody but – except for, you know, the players. It means a heck of a lot to us regardless how much it means to the fans. And we just appreciate everybody’s support even those that aren’t Charger crazy, and it’s a great place to play football. And I hope to be here for a long time.
CAVANAUGH: Hey, Nate, go, Chargers. Thanks so much.
KAEDING: All right, thanks, Maureen.
CAVANAUGH: I’ve been speaking with Nate Kaeding, kicker for the San Diego Chargers. And you can post your comments to this as with any other segment you hear on These Days, KPBS.org/thesedays. Coming up, the city’s big boost in solar permit fees. That’s next as These Days continues. And I do want to let you know the Chargers will take on the New York Jets this Sunday at 1:40 p.m. at Qualcomm Stadium. The game will be carried locally on Channel 8. These Days continues in just a few moments.