Brown playing like Pro Bowler

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EDITOR'S NOTE: To send Kris Brown and other Texans players to the 2008 Pro Bowl, please click *here to vote.*

The mentality of a kicker is to push all negatives aside and deal with as few distractions as possible. A bruised heel is an enemy of concentration and therefore Kris Brown chooses to make it a small issue.

So does Texans special teams coordinator Joe Marciano, who has shepherded Brown through the foot injury that has plagued the kicker through much of his outstanding season.

"He's been all right," Marciano said. "I'd be more concerned if it happened during training camp, where you get all your work done, all your timing and rhythm. At this stage, I don't think it's an issue."

Still, it's been an added task to make sure Brown is prepared on Sunday. It's an extra step, a longer look at pregame warmups to make sure his rock-steady leg swing is ready for the challenge.

"I've had to take it as it comes and deal with it," Brown said. "I haven't made a big deal about it. I make sure coach Joe knows how I feel and he's been great saying, 'We're not going to jeopardize anything that keeps you from kicking on Sunday.'''

Brown and Marciano have been doing what they always do: making sure Brown is ready at kickoff.

"If we have to not kick the whole week, then that's what we're going to do," Brown said. "We've had to do that a couple of weeks. We've rolled with the punches. It was hard to do that at first, but we've seen that's what we have to do."

If Brown needs a bruised foot to have this kind of season, he might arrange for a bruise all the time.

{QUOTE}Brown leads the NFL with the longest field goal of the season, a 57-yarder against Miami. That was on Oct. 7 and it was the best game of his career. Brown had field goals of 54, 43, 54, 20 and 57 yards.

He became the first kicker in NFL history to kick three field goals of 54 or more yards. He joins Morten Andersen and Neil Rackers as the only kickers in NFL history with three field goals of 50 or more yards in a game.

Brown had a career-high 16 points against the Dolphins and he has 84 points for the season, fifth among NFL scorers. Brown, one of the original expansion Texans, has kicked three field goals in three games this season.

He's 21 of 23 on the season, and to reach that height after 10 games, Brown has had to redouble his kicking routine.

He's practiced one of the truest sports clichés: turn a negative into a positive.

"It's made me go back and rethink the way I get prepared for a game," Brown said. "So many times before I'd go out there on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and kick a lot of balls.

"This year, I haven't been able to do that because of this injury. It's been good for me. It's showed me that I have some ability and that I can go out on Sunday without kicking and still perform at a high level.

"It shows me if that's what I need to do because of what's going on in my body, then I can do it."

Brown hasn't doubted his ability to hit the long ones, and he's proven that in a big way.

"When I step on the field, I'm confident I can make the kick," Brown said. "I go through my routine and get set and kick it.

"How far back you go is game to game. A lot of it is the conditions. What's the field like? That's part of going on the field before the game and determining where I feel comfortable and saying, 'OK, this is my limit today. This is where I can look at coach and say I'm comfortable, I've got this kick and knowing I can make it.'''

Brown will go against kicker Phil Dawson, an acquaintance from Texas high school days, in Sunday's game at Cleveland. Out-performing the other team's kicker is another ingredient of Brown's approach to game day.

"Absolutely, I want to go out there every week and perform at a level I expect myself to perform at," Brown said. "Certainly, from game to game, you want to go out there and compete against the other team's kicker.

"There are a lot of ways to do that, kickoff and field goals. There is somewhat of an inner competition. Just like a good pass rusher against another good pass rusher. They're never going to go against each other, but you want to compete and you want to make sure that at the end of the game your stats are better than his."

Brown and Dawson have followed each others' careers and expect to chat prior to Sunday's game.

"He's one of the elite kickers in the league, he's been one of the best," Brown said. "It's not me vs. him. It's a competition to go see if I can do all I can for my team. It's a measuring stick. I can go out there and at the end of the day, it's got to be good enough for this team to win."

Marciano is looking for a strong finish from his kicker, who is making a strong push for the Pro Bowl.

"We aren't finished, but to this point he's been very consistent," Marciano said. "Hopefully, he finishes up the way he's been going. You watch pregame warmups and that's been fine."

Coach Gary Kubiak watches his kicker, too.

Brown has a signal for Kubiak in games like last week's 23-10 victory over New Orleans to let his coach know he's ready. Brown kicked two field goals in the fourth quarter against the Saints, the last one with 1:57 to play.

"At that stage in the game, I even thought about punting it because we would give them the ball basically at midfield if you don't make it, and Kris looked at me and said 'I'm fine, let's go,''' Kubiak said. "So I told him in the locker room that if you give me the thumbs up, we're going to let you kick it.

"I have a lot of confidence in him."

EDITOR'S NOTE: *Michael A. Lutz worked for The Associated Press for 38 years covering news and sports in Louisville, Ky. Dallas and Houston. Most of that time was spent in Houston covering the Oilers, Astros, Texans and other college and pro sports. *

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