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Thinkin' With Lincoln: Sebastian Janikowski's Growth From Rookie To Record Holder


T Lincoln Kennedy (72) and K Sebastian Janikowski (11) played together for four seasons.

Lincoln Kennedy is a former All-Pro offensive tackle for the Oakland Raiders. Following his playing career, he moved into broadcasting and now serves as a Raiders radio analyst and a regular contributor to the Silver and Black Show. Additionally, he contributes to the Pac-12 Network and Fox Sports Radio as an analyst and radio host. During his 11 years playing in the NFL, Kennedy witnessed and experienced many amazing things – now he joins to share some of those experiences and offer unique insight into the world of football.

Sunday, Oct. 11 was a special day for Raider Nation. One of the franchise's most hallowed records – most games played all-time as a Raider – was broken by longtime kicker Sebastian Janikowski. When you stop to think of the great Raiders he surpassed to obtain this record, you realize just how impressive the accomplishment really is. He's passed Hall of Famers Jim Otto and Gene Upshaw and most recently Mr. Raider himself, Tim Brown. So when you speak to the greatness of the Raiders and all of the figures that have donned the Silver and Black, he stands above all of them in terms of longevity.

An exclusive look at the 17-year long record breaking career of one of the greatest players to ever wear the Silver and Black, Sebastian Janikowski.

First, let me say that I hate kickers and punters. Well, hate is probably too strong a word…I just despise them, but strictly on a professional level. Some of my closest football buddies were specialists -- Morten Andersen, Jeff Jaeger, and Ray Guy -- and they all are really cool guys. But on a professional level I've always truly despised the fact that while I was a player, I could look over to the sidelines during practice and see the specialists working on their golf swings or just goofing off. They have to save their legs and can't just kick nonstop, but they have one of the shortest practice periods of the day, so comparatively it can seem like they aren't working as hard as others. It's fair to say when they miss at the only responsibility they have, I really want to "kick" them in the rear!

I digress a bit, but that's only to say that I typically would be rubbed a bit the wrong way to see such a record claimed by a kicker. I'm not surprised that a kicker would earn it, for their careers can extend longer than those of most other positions, but it's still an honor to achieve such a feat (after all, it wasn't like he broke another kicker's record here), especially when you consider how far Sebastian, or Seabass, as he's affectionately known, has come. He's a man I like personally and has made great strides as a kicker and as a person throughout his career.

When the Raiders picked Seabass in 2000, I wasn't surprised we drafted a kicker. I had already been on the team for a few years and saw that our special teams needed to be addressed. We had lost a few games on last-minute field goals and we definitely needed a kicker, so any positive addition was a welcome one. Of course, Seabass was drafted in rather unique fashion, with the 17th overall pick in the first round, and I quickly found myself being confronted with more questions about how high we picked him than simply whether or not I thought he could contribute. So here I am, a veteran in the league, answering questions about the impact an unproven rookie kicker would have on our team as a whole. Trust me, when reporters ask you about other players it's always hard to come up with an answer period, but when they ask you about drafting a kicker, and that high? What can you possibly say other than that you hope he does his job and it works out?

Seabass was always a Raider whether he knew it or not. He admittedly had a few instances of trouble back at Florida State that made front-page news before he even came to the league. And at the time, the Raiders were particularly hard-nosed and tough, so a player that knew how to stick his nose into things and wasn't afraid of a bit of trouble seemed like a completely natural fit.

I had heard about all of the stuff he did in school and I knew it could be an issue, yet I figured he'd be fine. For many college players, a fresh start and the ability to make money as a professional make a lot of things better. But there was an adjustment period for Seabass. He had a few brushes with the law during his first season, and his kicking left a lot to be desired as well. We all saw that Seabass had a strong leg (he made one from 54 yards out as a rookie), but he wasn't as accurate as we had hoped and he didn't come through on as many field goals as I would've liked. He missed 10 attempts that year – his only real job! That first year of his was rough for us, so in retrospect I'm surprised that he now holds the record that he does.

In 2001, we saw a dramatic improvement in his accuracy and his leg strength was again apparent. It was that year I could see why he had the nickname "The Polish Cannon." He was blasting everything and it added a new dimension to our offense. Our special teams became a weapon and even if the offense couldn't always punch it in we were coming away with points. How did he make such significant strides? He worked on his craft. It's all about repetition and consistency to hone your craft and Seabass has done that. He has become one of the most consistent weapons the Raiders have, and that isn't by accident. Now teams are forced to deal with the fact that the Raiders have a chance to score three points once they cross the 50, and that's a rarity.

Seabass didn't only make strides on the field, however. As I mentioned before, he was never a model citizen off of it. But I was pleased to see him change that and mature throughout his career. When I returned to the Raiders as a broadcaster, I immediately noticed a new Sebastian Janikowski. I took our first road trip, and his maturity was evident -- he didn't drink, he wasn't restless, and he acted like a clear leader to the special teams unit. Young guys look up to him, want to know what he's done to stay so good for so long, and aspire to be like him. When I asked him about it he told me, "having two little girls at home changed me." It's obviously for the better and has paid off in football as well as life.

Ultimately, Seabass has been dedicated enough on and off the field to stay in the league for 16 seasons so far, and he's still playing at a tremendous level. He's consistent with his kicks and still blasts the ball from one end of the stadium to the other. So as long as Seabass wants to keep kicking, I think there's a spot for him with the Silver and Black. Don't you?

I just want to say congratulations to Seabass -- I'm extremely proud of him and what he's accomplished, becoming a fixture of the kicking game for 16 years and now holding the all-time games played as a Raider record.  I'd say he is well worth the first-round pick that the team spent on him – even if he is a kicker.

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