After winning AFC Special Teams Player of the Week for a third time in his career, Daniel Carlson compared the mental preparation of a NFL kicker to someone who plays golf — someone that just gets in the zone and has "tunnel vision" toward the task at hand.
"It's more of a mental sport for us a lot of times than it is physical," Carlson said. "For me, that's something where experience has definitely paid off. That's why you see kickers that are a lot older in the league. I think mentally I've grown a lot over the last few years in the NFL and that's definitely paid off. Just personality, self-belief, all that stuff is huge. I think that's at least 60 percent of kicking and always will be."
The maturation of the kicker has been visible for everyone to see not only this season, but since he's suited up in the Silver and Black. The former Auburn Tiger went from connecting on 73.1 percent of his field goals in his second season in the league to 94.3 percent the next season.
So far in 2021, he's not missed a single field goal or extra point attempt. His player of the week selection was in part to a 4-for-4 field goal performance, converting on field goal attempts of 33, 41, 45 and 46 yards against the Steelers.
"Obviously a team thing. The whole unit as a whole, 14 points in the game, that's a huge deal for that win," he said. "For me, every kick, whether I have one kick or five, six, whatever it may be, every one has the same exact value. It's points for the team. We're glad we were able to capitalize on a few opportunities this past game. Getting an award is kind of a cherry on top."
The award came a week after nailing a career-long 55-yard field goal to send the game into overtime in the Raiders' Monday Night Football victory over the Baltimore Ravens. Despite the immense amount of pressure behind the kick, Carlson didn't allow himself to fold to the pressure. He didn't see it differently than any other field goal he's made in any other practice or game. The kicker even stated that he once made a 75-yard field goal in his home state of Colorado.
"The main thing is just preparation," the 26-year-old said. "You don't have to worry about, 'Hey this is a big moment.' I've been in this moment a hundred million times it feels like now, with practice kicks and game kicks. Now I've gotten some experience where I'm starting to really get comfortable."
Carlson attributed his special teams comrades punter AJ Cole and long snapper Trent Sieg in helping him prepare for those big moments. The trio have been together with the Raiders for three seasons with special teams coach Rich Bisaccia and assistant special teams coach Byron Stoner.
"I think we're still young guys. We feel like young guys, but we've been doing this together for a few years now and I think it just keeps getting better and better," Carlson said.
While he's been a key piece in the Raiders starting 2-0 this season, he can't say his fantasy football team has the same record. He is currently the No. 1 ESPN fantasy football kicker in points scored this season and even cost himself a victory against one of his friends.
"I actually played against myself in fantasy this week, in my own friend group fantasy. That was tough because I took a loss. I definitely contributed to that," Carlson said with a laugh. "It's fun. I think fantasy is great, it just gets people more involved in specific players and football in general. I have a lot of fun with it with my college friends. A lot of people are messaging me and telling me, 'Hey you did great for me in fantasy.'
"I was at an apple orchard the other day and a random guy came up to me and told me I did a great job for his fantasy team. I think people are very invested in their fantasy teams and I think that's great."
That random apple orchard guy and I have the same energy. "Cash Money" Carlson earned me 17 fantasy points in my league last Sunday. Hopefully he'll start drafting himself earlier from here on out.