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Houston Texans

Kicking competition down to wire


Kris Brown and Neil Rackers haven't made coach Gary Kubiak's job any easier.

Brown was short on a 56-yard attempt Thursday night and Rackers hit a 21-yarder in the Texan's 24-17 loss to Tampa Bay but that didn't result in much separation between the veteran kickers.

Brown was 4-for-5 on preseason field goals and Rackers was 5-for-5 in the tightest position race of the Texans' preseason. Now the polls are closed and the only vote that counts comes from Kubiak.

"I feel Neil and I can both walk out with our heads held high tonight," Brown said. "I think we both handled it extremely well.

"I'm proud of the way I handle it. One thing I wanted to do was set an example. I wanted my kids to see how I handled the situation. I feel proud I handled it the right way."

Brown, the last of the original Texans from the expansion 2002 team, was among the steadiest kickers in the league until last season when he missed 11 kicks. The Texans signed Rakers in the off season to compete for the kicking job.

And it's been quite an experience for both kickers.

"This has been a situation that's been healthy for both of us because we've both been in situations where we haven't been challenged in awhile," Rackers said. "This can launch us into the next 10 years of our career. Whatever decision they make I totally understand."

Kubiak isn't looking forward to the call.

"I'm not looking forward to it," Kubiak said. "The field goals have been totally equal. I'm looking hard at the kickoffs. That's what
I've been watching in practice. I think it's an area we have to improve. There's a fine line right there. I'll sit down with the coaches and Joe (Marciano) and see which one we think is best."

Rackers kicked a 52-yarder against New Orleans on August 21. It tied for the second longest field goal in Texans' preseason and was just the fifth preseason field goal of 50-plus yards in team history.

{QUOTE}"We've both done a lot but there's only one job here and whoever way they go with you can't argue either way," Rackers said. "I might have Kris in eyebrows but other than that I don't know."

Brown has been a cornerstone of the Texans, active in community work and a popular player in the locker room. He has kicked 252 of 326 field goals for a career average of 77.3 percent.

"Overall, I think I kicked the ball well this camp," Brown said. "That kick at the half, I went through my routine and everything felt
real good. I just got a little bit of a spinner and it ended up a little short but it was right on line. It was one of those that you
do everything right, it just didn't go through.

"I'm pleased with the way I came out this camp and competed. More than anything else, I can hold my head high. I hit the ball well. Kickoffs after New Orleans they were pretty consistent. I felt I did everything I could."

Rackers has hit 205 of 262 career field goals for a 78.2 average. He kicked an NFL record 40 of 42 field goals for Arizona in 2005.

"Either way, it's going to be a sad day in my mind," Rakers said. "Whether I'm at practice or during practice, I don't get to hang out
with Kris. It's a unique situation and I understand either way they go.

"We both have had good days and days we weren't completely proud of. Every single kick we made in practice was identical. He kicked one, I kicked one.

Through the competition, a friendship developed.

"Whether it's here or somewhere else we'll both continue to do our job," Rackers said. "I will keep in contact with him for a long time."

"This was the greatest experience of my career," Brown said. "Neil's a great guy. I've learned a lot about myself as a player. I've learned a lot about myself as a person and I think this is going to be a defining moment in my career."

Now comes the hard part for Kubiak, who has talked about the tough decision throughout training camp.

"It's been an impressive battle," Kubiak said. "They've both been automatic field goal-wise. Like I said, the percentage point is so
close. It's been a great battle, not a good battle. Two great guys and they both have handled it very professionally, but obviously we
can only have one so it will be a very difficult decision."

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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