Aug. 10, 2007
ATLANTA, Georgia -
by JOEL BROWN, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
A year ago during Falcons training camp, Michael Koenen was given three jobs -- punter, kickoff specialist and placekicker. It would have been easy for him to cower from the pressure.
Koenen admits to relishing the opportunity.
"It was exciting," said Koenen, who is entering his third season. "It was fun challenging myself to set goals like that and striving for them."
Perhaps a large part of being so comfortable was his prior experience as a "Triple Threat," as he was affectionately tagged last season. During his four years at Western Washington University, Koenen assumed all three kicking responsibilities.
"I had four years of it in college, so I know how to practice for it and get different leg swings," Koenen said. "It definitely helped me now."
Koenen became the first NFL kicker to perform all three tasks in a game since Frank Corral for the Los Angeles Rams in 1981.
The "Triple Threat" didn't work. Koenen missed six of eight field goal attempts through the first two games, and the Falcons signed 46-year-old Morten Andersen.
This season, Koenen returns as the punter. The team has signed veteran Billy Cundiff to take on the other kicking responsibilities.
"I think it's a testament to Mike's athletic ability and his coaching that he was able to even be considered for a three-way position last year," special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg said. "It's very, very difficult to do that. And he was a starter at all three, and that is remarkable.
"We decided to focus him just on punting for that exact reason. It's difficult to do all three. He's got abilities to do other things, but we're focusing on his punting first and foremost."
While Koenen enjoyed the brief challenges of triple duty, he is welcoming the opportunity to specialize in one job.
"It's easier to do just one thing, obviously," Koenen said. "The best part about it is probably not having to take so many reps, so there's not as much wear and tear on your body."
Even though Koenen will be expected only to punt this season, it does not rule out the possibility that he may be asked to kick off or kick long field goals in the future. The coaching staff is aware of his ability and prefers to keep him prepared.
"He still practices [kicking], but there are a lot of things to be determined still," Rosburg said. "All the guys are cross-training to some extent."