ALBANY - There seems to be this feeling circulating around the early stages of training camp that Rodney Williams' hold on the punting job is insecure. The only problem with that theory is that one of the key men making the decision in who stays and who goes doesn't really buy into it.
"Rodney's our punter and Gabe's got to knock him out,'' special teams coach Bruce Read said.
Gabe would be Gabe Lindstrom, who represents real competition for Williams, which was not the case last year, when as a rookie Williams was all-but handed the job. Williams did not come out of the gate booming kicks off his right leg, which may have led to the speculation that Lindstrom is gaining on him. During this afternoon's practice devoted entirely to special teams, though, Williams sent his punts sailing high and far. He is going to be difficult to unseat.
There is no doubt that Jim Fassel wants to see more consistency out of Williams, who has a dreamy right leg but who on occasion can unleash some nightmarish punts.
Still, knocking Williams out will not be easy. Williams set a Giants record in last year's season-opener with a 90-yard punt in Denver and he can make observers gasp when he displays his leg strength. Read is working with Williams to increase his hang time and limit the line drives or miss-hits that lead to trouble. Preferably, Reed said, Williams does not need to punt the ball longer than 45 yards, as long as it's high enough (4.5 seconds of hang time) for the Giants to cover it.
Lindstrom, who has been in camps with the Cowboys and Browns and also had a tryout with the Lions, had an unusual brush with the Giants last season. They signed him on Nov. 13 because Williams' fractured right wrist made it unlikely he could catch the snap and punt against the Vikings. Lindstrom warmed up for the Monday Night Football game at the Metrodome but 20 minutes before he was to make his NFL debut, Williams was deemed fit to kick and Lindstrom was not activated. Then he was cut, but not before earning $12,000 for the week, a bit more than the $85 a day he was receiving for substitute teaching in Tucson.
As he's trying to overtake Williams this summer, Lindstrom has many obstacles to cross. One is that the name on the back of his uniform top reads "Lidstrom.'' Ouch.
More Camp News
An unusual fight broke out in the afternoon special teams practice, when DE Cedric Scott and DT Matt Mitrione went at each other during a punting drill. Scott slammed Mitrione to the grass and landed several punches before Jim Fassel ran in, got to his knees and broke it up. It was strange because fights rarely arise between players from the same position. ...
Day No. 5 came and went with no sign of first-round pick Jeremy Shockey and Fassel yesterday stepped up his rhetoric. "We're not making any headway at all,'' Fassel said. "Honestly, I've never seen a guy who's a holdout for very long come in and have a good rookie year.''
As far as when Shockey needs to arrive to play in the pre-season opener Aug. 5 in Canton, Fassel said "Depends on my mood. He may show up at five o'clock on Monday [the day of the game] and he'll play.''