FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (Sept. 6, 2006) -- Four days before their season opener, the Atlanta Falcons still had only one kicker on their roster.
Look for Michael Koenen to be handling all three jobs.
After scanning the list of available kickers for someone who might be worth picking up, coach Jim Mora has all but settled on Koenen as the guy who will kick field goals and extra points, do the punting and handle kickoffs.
He would be the NFL's first regular triple-duty kicker since Frank Corral of the Los Angeles Rams in 1981.
"Right now, as we sit here on Wednesday, the plan is to go with Michael," Mora said, looking ahead to the opener at division rival Carolina. "That could change, but I don't foresee it changing."
Koenen handled punts and kickoffs as a rookie in 2005, also connecting from 58 yards -- the longest field goal in the NFL all season -- on one of two attempts he made that were out of regular kicker Todd Peterson's range.
After Peterson was let go, Koenen easily beat out several little-known kickers brought in to compete for the placekicking job. He went 8 for 8 during the preseason, hitting from 50 and 51 yards in addition to four other kicks that were at least 40 yards.
Mora has been concerned about relying on one kicker, wondering what would happen if Koenen got hurt during a game and there was no one to fill in at three positions. The Falcons did sign Tony Yelk to the practice squad, but he would not be able to provide immediate help in a game situation unless he was added to the active roster before the game.
"I have a lot of confidence in Michael," Mora said. "I think he'll be fine. Am I going to tell him not to tackle anybody? No, I'm not going to do that. He's a good little athlete. We're just going to let him play the game."
Yelk already is able to take some of the load off Koenen in practice.
"I've had to learn how to practice without overdoing it," Koenen said. "I've just had to cut it back a little bit. That's the biggest thing."
His teammates are solidly behind Koenen, believing he gives the team an effective weapon in all three areas.
"He's got a little swagger," quarterback Michael Vick said. "He's confident in himself. That's what it takes to be successful in this league. To be a player who's widely recognized for what he can do, you've got to be able to step up in big situations and want to make the play. Mike is a guy who wants to make the play. He wants to be part of what we're doing."
Vick is especially looking forward to taking advantage of Koenen's strong right leg on field goals.
"I'm glad to have him on our team," the quarterback said. "He made a 58-yarder last year. With a guy like that, you don't even have to get near the red zone."