All eyes are on Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher.

Much attention will be on Dallas Cowboys kicker Brett Maher when the team plays the 49ers in the division playoff game Sunday in San Francisco.

Maher is heading for what many consider close after a historically poor game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, dropping four extra points. The difference in 49ers play could come down to the field goal. With a Super Bowl victory on the line, many fans are wondering if Maher can recover.

West Texan Tony Franklin, a former NFL kicker, is quick to defend Maher, noting that he overheard patrons at a restaurant criticizing the 33-year-old Dallas kicker. He said he felt obligated to tell them something.

“I said, ‘Did any of you ever come out and try to kick a field goal or score an extra point in a National Football League game?’ And they said no. And I said, “Well, I have. And I was a kicker. And I know what it’s like,” he told Texas Public Radio. “Until you’ve done that, you need to get away from him and leave him alone.” ”

Maher is now retired at his ranch near Junction, Texas. The former barefoot kicker played for the Texas A&M Aggies and later the Eagles, Patriots and Dolphins of the NFL from the late 1970s to the late 1980s.

Franklin said he saw what happened to Maher in the game.

“I just think he drooped his right shoulder a bit. When you drop your right shoulder, you hit the ball to the right, and then he overcompensates for it. your left shoulder and that forces you to pull the ball to the left,” he said. “But the last one, his shoulders were perfect.”

Franklin believes Maher will watch the game video and make the adjustments he needs to make as a professional player and be ready for the 49ers, especially with his support from coaches and teammates.

“I think it’s important that they show confidence in him. Just in case, they went ahead, I know, and signed the guy to hit in the practice team. But I think he will recover well,” he said. “And I wouldn’t be surprised to see him score a field goal this weekend to beat the 49ers.”

While many fans believe that kickers follow superstitions like wearing certain socks in order to succeed, it’s really about finding grace under fire.

Former University of Texas at San Antonio kicker Hunter Duplessis, now with the XFL Houston Roughnecks, said kickers rely on routine to calm nerves and improve performance.

“Routine in the sense that maybe you get three warm-up shots every time before going on the field,” he said. “Maybe you take one really deep breath. These things help them focus on their craft.”

Athletes can get back on track with the help of a licensed sports psychologist. Dr. Julie Virnick, owner of the Texas Sports Psychology Center in San Antonio, helps players cope with the symptoms of mental and physical stress that prevent what she calls the “critical moment of a performance,” like scoring an extra point. .

So what is he doing right now? she said. “Either he’s physically very nervous, or he’s mentally nervous.”

Wernick agrees that routines like breathing exercises and muscle relaxation are the answer to a lot of stressors, not superstitions, which she doesn’t support at all. She joked when she asked what they would do if their lucky socks were “eaten by your dog”.

Dr. John Land, an associate professor of sports psychology at the University of Texas at San Antonio, said sports psychologists are working to get athletes to perform their feats the way so many of us tie our shoelaces.

“Your brain, your body automatically controls them without thinking about the steps. This is how it should be in sports with these highly trained skills. We have to force them, the brain and the body, to control it as if automatically. So, we have to get them to stop thinking too much about how to perform this action.”

Franklin said that a lot of kicks are mental.

“Kick six inches between the ears, brother. That’s the difference, he said. – You just need to get out there. You cannot enter the field at any given time with any self-doubt, because if you do, you will simply open yourself up to miss your shot. You have to take the field every time with confidence.”

Franklin said everyone can have a bad game, even seven-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady, whom the Cowboys beat last Monday.

“Look how bad Brady looked last night. A lot of the Dallas defense is to blame, but he couldn’t hit a bull in the ass with a bass fiddle.”

Let’s face it, we can all have a bad day at the office. The footballer’s office is just a field. According to these experts, how you recover matters. Let’s see how Brett Maher performs this Sunday.

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Copyright 2023 Texas Public Radio. To learn more, visit Texas Public Radio.

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