The second time Suisham kicked for the Cowboys, he missed one of two attempts longer than 30 yards.
Three years later, Dallas is giving Suisham another try.
The Cowboys signed the veteran kicker off the NFL’s scrap heap to replace Nick Folk after the club finally ran out of patience waiting for the young, former Pro Bowler to break out of his slump.
So, Shaun, what changed while you were away?
“I’m married and have a baby,” he said Tuesday, smiling.
From a football perspective, Suisham brings a lot more experience, having made 73 of 92 kicks for the Washington Redskins over the past three seasons, a respectable 79 percent. He also was having his best full season, making 18 of 21.
He became available only because those few misses cost Washington two victories in a season that’s been short on success. His flubs from 39 and 50 yards really hurt in a 7-6 loss to the Cowboys, then he missed a 23-yarder that would’ve sealed a victory over New Orleans. The Redskins lost in overtime and Suisham was cut a few days later, on Dec. 8.
Suisham was upset, but understood it comes with the territory. He didn’t see the need for any soul searching; there were no sessions with a kicking guru to troubleshoot his mechanics or visits to a sports psychologist in search of a mental cure.
He just went to a high school near his home in Virginia and kept kicking in case a team came calling. Sure enough, Dallas invited him in for a tryout Monday, and he beat four others for the job.
“I’m not trying to start over,” Suisham said, standing in front of a locker that only had his name written in tape, his old nameplate apparently no longer handy.
“It’s not like I’m rebuilding or anything like that. Unfortunately, I missed three field goals. There isn’t anybody out there who’s perfect. I feel like I should be. But I certainly am not hanging my head or lacking in confidence because I missed a few kicks this year.”
The Cowboys should be glad to hear that because their next two games are going to present challenges for Suisham that go beyond the team being in a playoff chase.
First up is a trip to Washington. Suisham was mum about any feelings of revenge or other obvious motivations in facing the team that just cut him. He even claimed that he didn’t see his replacement on the Redskins miss an extra point Monday night. He was so intent on avoiding controversy that when he was asked how fans will treat him, Suisham said, “I don’t know.”
“It’s no longer about Washington,” he said. “It’s about being here in Dallas.”
Speaking of being here in Dallas, Cowboys Stadium was the site of his only two-miss game this season. He’ll be back there a week from Sunday for a finale against Philadelphia that could decide the division title.
“I don’t overthink things,” he said. “My job is to go out and kick field goals. I’m not concerned with all the variables and things that could happen or might happen. I’m just working today in practice and build up to this game.”
Folk missed 10 kicks, a dubious NFL-most, including at least one in six straight games. The Cowboys stuck with him for so long because he’s only 25 and in his third year, having made the Pro Bowl as a rookie.
They were hoping he would be their kicker for many years to come, but he just couldn’t fix whatever knocked him out of whack. Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis thought things were worked out when Folk made a 44-yarder against New Orleans, but then he missed a 24-yarder in the final few minutes that gave the Saints a chance to rally.
It was almost the same scenario as Suisham’s demise in Washington, the difference being that the Dallas defense held on for the victory. Had the Redskins done the same, DeCamillis pointed out, then perhaps they would’ve given their kicker a second chance.
Instead, the Cowboys are giving him a third chance.
“You’ve seen plenty of guys at this position who have been with different teams and flourished,” DeCamillis said. “Hopefully that’s what happens with him.”