||HEADLINE NEWS - Features
Monday - 1/8/2001
Special teamer blocks Titans' path
By Vic Carucci
NFL Insider for NFL.com
After blocking two field goals for the Baltimore Ravens in 1999, Keith Washington thought it might be the start
of a career trend. But then came the 2000 regular season, and, through 16 games, Washington, a reserve defensive end, didn't get a sniff of an opponent's field-goal attempt. Nor did he block one in the Ravens' wild-card playoff victory over the Denver Broncos on Dec. 31.
In Sunday's divisional-round game against the Tennessee Titans, however, Washington became the "Human Eraser" he had hoped to be in his sixth NFL season. He blocked two field-goal tries by the normally reliable Al Del
Greco, the second of which Anthony Mitchell returned 90 yards for the go-ahead touchdown in the Ravens' 24-10 victory.
The first block came on a 45-yard try with 2:19 left in the second quarter. On the second, which came on a 37-yard attempt early in the fourth, Washington was without his helmet, which was knocked off at the line of scrimmage.
"Last year, (Ravens special teams coach) Russ Purnell believed in me and gave me the opportunity to make some plays, and I made a couple of blocks last year," the 6-foot-4, 275-pound Washington said. "And that was basically my job for him this year. I was not able to get any during the regular season, but I would take these as opposed to seven in the regular season any day.
"It was about sheer determination, and that's what this team's about: determined to go out to make the plays. And right now we're a game away from going to the Super Bowl."
After the game, Washington talked in greater detail about his performance for NFL Insider:
Would you describe your field-goal blocks?
On the first one, I tried to predict the trajectory of the ball, and I just went up and got a piece of it; I got it on the tip of my fingers. The second one I blocked, that was pretty clean. I got a nice piece of that. I got that with my whole hand. The first block, I was kind of surprised to get because I was in a stalemate at the line, so I just went up with the tip of my fingers. However, on the second block, we got a lot of push up the middle and got the block.
What are the special techniques involved with kick blocking?
First of all, you have to get off on the snap and get as much penetration as possible, and then just go up with your hands. But, at the same time, you have to anticipate the trajectory of the ball, as far as where the goal posts are. The kicker might be lined up to kick a field goal and you might think he has to slant the ball a little bit because the goal post might be to the left of you or the right of you. (Ravens defensive end) Rob Burnett had mentioned to us that the trajectory of the ball was pretty low, so he just told us, `Whether you get penetration or not, just get your hands up.' And that's what we did.
Could you talk more about the importance of anticipating the trajectory of the ball?
If you have a low trajectory, nine times out of 10, things can happen. When you have a guy who can get it up high without even coming close to the line of scrimmage, that's kind of frustrating. But when you know a guy
is trying to give it a lot and the trajectory is low, you like that. It was just a matter of getting off the ball and trying to rush the kicks and I was able to come up with the blocks. Our special teams coach (Russ Purnell) does a great job of putting us in situations to make plays when it comes to field-goal kicking, and it paid off.
Did having the Titans block two of your punts give you extra motivation on the plays you made?
When we had the two kicks blocked, we felt that things were going their way. We were just determined that things were bound to happen for us by way of blocked field goals, possibly going down by three but going up by seven (instead). So that turn of events was huge. I want that every time.
How much of Anthony Mitchell's touchdown return were you able to see after the block?
When I got the block, the guy actually knocked me on my back. I looked up, saw Anthony Mitchell flying down the right sideline, and the way he was running, he was very determined.
Were those the two biggest plays of your life?
Oh, absolutely. This is the road to the Super Bowl, so every play is huge, whether it's a gain of two or a gain of 12, it's huge. After the block that was returned for a touchdown, was there a feeling that you had just won the game?
No. We knew it was going to be a dogfight to the very end. We know they have a tremendous team. They went to the Super Bowl last year, and they are the defending AFC champions. At the same time, this is the closest team and a very determined team. It was going to take a lot to take us down. You have to come with it if you want to take the Ravens down.
Before today, when was the last time you made a play without your helmet on?
I can't say. I never have, really. I'll have to look at the play again. I don't remember what it was like to be out there without a helmet. You don't think about that when the adrenaline is pumping.