Just For Kicks? No Way

January 29, 1994|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

ATLANTA -- Four years after the fact, Buffalo Bills place-kicker Steve Christie is never far removed from the specter of Scott Norwood.

There are always reminders from the media. And then there are reminders from sources closer to home.

Christie said this week that even his neighbors bring up Norwood's missed 47-yard field-goal attempt in Super Bowl XXV, when the Bills lost to the New York Giants, 20-19.

What is Christie's response?

"That's it, no tickets," he said, cracking a smile.

Turning serious, he said, "People tell me, 'If we had you [in 1991], we would have won.' Hey, I could have missed that just as easily."

Norwood's miss is the biggest reason Christie will kick for the Bills in Super Bowl XXVIII tomorrow against the Dallas Cowboys. Shortly after Christie was signed in February 1992, Norwood was released.

Norwood left with virtually all the team's scoring and kicking records, including career points (670), career field goals (133), most field goals in a season (32) and consecutive field goals (13).

Christie toppled Norwood's record for longest field goal with a 54-yarder his first year with the team. He improved on that with a 59-yarder -- longest in the NFL this season -- last September at Miami.

But kicking on Rich Stadium's frozen tundra in January in the playoffs is not exactly nirvana. Two weeks ago, in subzero temperatures and with a minus-32 wind-chill index, Christie missed two extra-point tries and a field-goal attempt. The Bills still beat the Los Angeles Raiders, 29-23.

"When you're out there long enough, it doesn't matter what kind of heating you have," Christie said. "You can't feel anything. The field's frozen. You don't have any control over your footing. That's all part of playing in Buffalo."

OK, so why did Christie sign with the Bills in the first place? Two reasons. One, he spent his first two NFL seasons with the woeful Tampa Bay Buccaneers and wanted to play for a winner. Two, Buffalo was only 70 miles from his home in Oakville, Ontario. (Christie's counterpart with the Cowboys, Eddie Murray, also is Canadian.)

"My last year with Tampa, we won three games," Christie said. "The first year we won six. My last year at William & Mary, we won nine games. So in two years in Tampa, we won the same number of games we did in one year at William & Mary, that football factory of the south."

Even so, Christie could have been kicking at the Silverdome, home of the Detroit Lions. He had offers from the Lions and New York Jets.

He chose Buffalo, he says, "partly because of Coach [Marv] Levy, partly because of the Bills' emphasis on special teams, and partly because of [special teamers] like Steve Tasker and Mark Pike."

It seems to have been the right choice. In two years with the Bills, Christie has gone to two Super Bowls.

This year, with the game at the Georgia Dome, he even gets to come in out of the cold.

NOTES: The Bills are uncertain about the availability of CB James Williams (calf, questionable) and LB Richard Harvey (knee, questionable) for tomorrow's game. Both worked yesterday during a 1-hour, 15-minute practice without pads at Georgia Tech, but on a limited basis. Levy said a decision whether to activate the two would be made just before the game. "They could go," he said, "but we want to make sure they're 100 percent. You can't be 90 percent in the Super Bowl when there are other players we can have active." The Bills' two other injured players -- G John Davis (knee) and CB Mickey Washington (ribs) -- practiced and are listed as probable.

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