If absolutely nothing else, Daniel Carlson’s rookie season in the NFL was a memorable one.
After being selected in the fifth round (No. 167 overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft, the former Auburn Tiger played in just two games for the Minnesota Vikings before the team ultimately decided to part ways with him after a trio of missed field goals.
The then-23-year-old Carlson packed his things and returned home, determined to land another NFL job, and while he was anxious to get back to work, he was steadfast in his approach that he was going to use his time away from the game to hone his craft.
“We just felt like at that time, I could take a break, work on some things that I wanted to work on, because once you get into the season, you’re just getting ready for Sunday,” said Carlson Wednesday afternoon. “You’re getting ready for Sunday. It was nice to be able to step back, work on a couple of little things – luckily this kind of circled around, and I was able to get a workout with [the Raiders] later. I knew an opportunity would come. Obviously, I didn’t know where from, but I just wanted to make sure that when that came I was ready and would be ready for the rest of the season.”
Well, that opportunity certainly came around for Carlson, and after signing with the Raiders October 23, the 6’5” kicker appeared in 10 games for the Silver and Black, making the most of said opportunity, connecting on all but one of his 17 field goal attempts and each of his 18 extra points.
And while the Carlson’s play over the final 10 weeks was an unquestioned positive for a team that at times had a hard time finding things to smile about in 2018, as the cerebral kicker noted, those kicks he made last year don’t really mean a ton presently.
“You can grow a lot in adversity, and hopefully you learn some things when you’re doing well too, and you gain some confidence from that, but for me last season was last season,” Carlson explained. “It finished off great, but it’s a new chapter now, and I’m just trying to get as prepared as I can to help the team get some wins this season. I’m just really excited to be a part of this team, and excited where we’re going in the future.”
With just a single miss during his tenure as a Raider, Year Two of Carlson’s reign as the placekicker for the Silver and Black really can’t improve that much statistically – the man connected on over 94 percent of his kicks after all. That said, now with the luxury of a full offseason program in Northern California to hone his craft, No. 8 is focused on getting better incrementally day after day.
“I think you’re always getting worse or better, and so I think, yes, I learned from things that worked last year, and I want to keep those things going, but at the same time, I always want to improve. I’ve been working really hard this offseason,” Carlson said. “I want to continue to build off what I had last year, and the things that were going well, but still continuing to improve every day. I think for the most part I’ve been able to do that. That’ll be the goal now as we wrap up minicamp and have a little break before camp, just continue to get myself ready so once the season hits I’m ready, and hopefully we have a long season, and get into the playoffs, and hopefully I’m peaking come playoff time.”
Part of that incremental improvement always means getting better even on the kicks that he connects on, which – if all goes to plan – there will be a plethora of in 2019.
“Not every kick is necessarily going to be perfect, but it’s important that in games and in the season – that not every kick has to be an A+, but my B kicks, B- kicks, are still going through,” Carlson stated. “That’s going to help me be more consistent, but in practice right now, I want to get as many A+ kicks as I can, continue to work on, hey, what I can do to make my B- ball stay straight, stay in the uprights.”
He continued, “I think just continuing to learn that, work on that, each and every day, sometimes even kicks that I miss are decently hit balls, I just didn’t play the wind right or whatever, so sometimes you have to sit back and worry about the process that you control, not always worry about the result. Hopefully if you take care of the process, the result will take care of itself.”