SPORTS

New longer converts add wrinkle to kicking game in the Canadian Football League

06/19/2015 10:57 EDT | Updated 06/19/2016 05:59 EDT
CALGARY - Converting touchdowns was once routine for CFL kickers. They're no longer so easy.

Among the rule changes the CFL introduced for 2015 is moving convert attempts from the 12-yard line back to 32. What was once an automatic chip shot now requires field-goal concentration and preparation.

"If a kicker goes three-for-three on regular field goals in a game, that's a pretty good game," Stampeder special teams coach Mark Kilam says. "Now if he's going for three-for-three plus three converts, that's a six-for-six game.

"That's a huge game for a kicker."

According to the CFL, 99.4 per cent of convert attempts were successful from 12 yards out in 2014. Field-goal attempts from between 31 and 33 yards away were 81 per cent successful.

There was a missed convert in each of the CFL's first two pre-season games.

"It just puts in another element and makes it more exciting because no one really watches the point after," said Winnipeg Blue Bombers kicker Lirim Hajrullahu. "To be honest, I never really practised a point after until this year."

It's well within the ability of a seasoned kicker to put the football through the uprights from 32 yards.

"A 32-yard field goal doesn't really sound like a big deal and it's not a real long kick," said Swayze Waters of the Toronto Argonauts, the CFL's top special-teams player last year. "But when you're used to a short extra point, just visually it's just taken a little while to get used to.

"Coach (Scott Milanovich) has done a good job of putting us in a lot of situations during training camp just randomly calling touchdown extra point, so we'll go out there and get a kick in with the whole team surrounding me . . . kind of adding pressure to the extra point."

Another rule change this season will impact how often converts are actually tried.

If a team attempts a two-point convert, the ball will now be scrimmaged from the three-yard line instead of the five to encourage coaches to go for what is considered a more exciting play. Seven out of 23 two-point attempts were successful last season, according to the CFL.

Faced with the choice of kicking a 32-yard convert into a headwind for one point or running the ball in for two, it will likely be the latter option.

In their first pre-season game against the B.C. Lions, the Stampeders scored the only touchdown of the game. Head coach John Hufnagel went for the two-point convert, so no converts were kicked the entire game.

Calgary kicker Rene Paredes still has to be ready for whatever Hufnagel decides in the seconds after a touchdown.

"It's getting prepared and knowing when Huf is going to go for one or two," Paredes says. "Whatever decision Huf goes with, you've got to be ready for it."

That means a few more kicks in the practice net as his team nears the goal-line.

"Once we're in field-goal range, which is past the 50, I started kicking," Paredes said. "Not too many, but I get in my rhythm.

"Usually I stop once the offence is inside the 20 or the 25 not because it's an easy field goal, but I'm more comfortable and don't have to kick as many balls as when I'm kicking a 45-yarder."

"(Now) if we're inside the 20, I might take a few more kicks."

Where the new converts may help kickers is in providing dress rehearsals for important field goals, including that possible 45-yard boot for the win.

"For the most part, it gets you warmed up for the situation," says Stampeder draft pick Tyler Crapigna, who is the all-time field-goal leader in Canadian Interuniversity Sport.

"Coming in for a big kick, if you've made a couple 32-yarders, you feel good. It might go the other way. If you haven't made a couple, you might not feel as good."

With the point after touchdown no longer a formality, Kilam expects to see unusual sums on the scoreboard.

"You're going to see some weird scores in the CFL," he says. "Not that they weren't weird already."

---

With files from Dan Ralph in Toronto and Judy Owen in Winnipeg.

MORE:cpSports