ALAMEDA (AP) — Sebastian Janikowski remembers clearly the criticism Al Davis, then the Oakland Raiders’ owner, received for making him a first-round draft pick in 2000.
Sixteen seasons later, the Polish-born kicker believes he’s put the controversy to rest.
Already owner of nearly every significant team kicking record and currently 16th on the NFL’s career scoring list, the 37-year-old Janikowski will add to his impressive resume Sunday when he breaks Tim Brown’s franchise record for most games played.
Janikowski, who has missed just four games in his career, has played in 240 overall and is one of only two players remaining from the Raiders’ last playoff team in 2002. Safety Charles Woodson is the other, though he is in his second tour with the team after spending seven seasons with Green Bay.
“I feel great,” Janikowski said Thursday in a rare meeting with reporters. “I’ve stayed away from injuries. Maybe six, seven, eight more years, you never know, I’ll still be kicking.”
That would be fine with the Raiders, who have come to rely on Janikowski as their most reliable scoring threat.
Eight years ago he broke George Blanda’s team record for career scoring. At some point this season, it’s likely Janikowski will have more total points than Blanda and Chris Bahr, the third-leading scorer in Raiders history, have combined.
Janikowski also has 13 game-winning field goals and needs five more of 50 yards or longer to break Jason Hanson’s NFL record.
All from a kicker who many people around the league scoffed at when he entered the NFL as the 17th overall pick in 2000.
“There’s always a surprise if the kicker goes in the first round,” Janikowski said “But I think in the end it pays off. Sixteen years later, you look at all the records and this is another record in the books.”
Of the top 21 scorers in NFL history, only three have played with one team. Janikowski is one of them, having spent his entire career in Oakland. Lou Groza, who is 15th on the list with 1,608 points, played his entire career with the Cleveland Browns, while No. 4 Hanson spent 21 seasons with the Detroit Lions.
This year Janikowski has made good on all seven field goal attempts, including three in a 37-33 win over Baltimore in Week 2.
“He’s a heck of a weapon,” Raiders coach Jack Del Rio said. “He’s got a strong leg. He’s been a good teammate and he’s a really strong kicker, really strong at that position, and we’re just glad we have him.”
Once known as a hard-partying carouser who had multiple run-ins with law enforcement in college and early in his NFL career, Janikowski is much calmer these days. He’s got twin daughters, breaks away from work for the occasional golf game, and is generally more at peace.
The 255-pound veteran is also focusing on his health, a key to Janikowski’s durability over the years.
“The last three or four years he’s actually started to take care of his body, doing the little treatment-type things to promote longevity in this league,” said Jon Condo, Janikowski’s long snapper since 2007. “Father Time catches up with everyone, but he’s trying to go on and do the best that he can do.”
The Raiders went to the playoffs in each of Janikowski’s first three seasons and played in the 2002 Super Bowl. They haven’t been back to the postseason since and have not had a winning record for 12 consecutive years.
During that time the team has made nine head coaching changes and gone through almost as many special teams coaches, though the results rarely changed.
With the Raiders 2-2 heading into Sunday’s home game against Denver, Janikowski believes they’ve finally turned the corner and are headed back toward respectability.
“When Jack came in he changed the whole culture,” Janikowski said “The guys that we have right now, I think we can go a long way.”
NOTES: Woodson (shouldered) took part in individual positions drills after not practicing a day earlier. ... WR Michael Crabtree (ankle) and DE Justin Tuck (knee) were also back at practice after sitting out Wednesday’s workout. . Backup safety TJ Carrie (chest) attended the early portion of practice but did not participate in any drills.