An NFL kicker, much like a golfer, doesn't want anyone messing with his mechanics close to kickoff.
The swing needs to be just right. The ball can't be too soft or too firm. The weather always plays a role, of course, but the idea is to mimic the practice routine as much as possible.
That's why some kickers probably wouldn't have liked it when the Pittsburgh Steelers, midway through the preseason, brought in long snapper Jared Retkofsky to challenge incumbent Greg Warren. The Steelers made the move after Jeff Reed's lone extra point attempt was blocked during a 13-9 exhibition loss to Green Bay on Saturday.
No two snappers are alike, and it takes time to build a rapport among a kicker, holder and snapper. If a snapper gets the ball to the holder faster or slower than the kicker is accustomed, or if the holder must take time to spin the ball and get the laces in the proper position, a kicker's timing can be badly disrupted.
"Greg's been around long enough to know how many rotations are on the ball until the laces are out," Reed said Tuesday. "The laces are out (and away from the kicker) 90 percent of the time when the holder catches it. Jared is a good snapper, but he's still getting a feel for everything. It's different football than college, all different stuff."
Retkofsky, a former tackle at TCU, was with the Steelers earlier this year but was cut the week before training camp. After Reed missed a 42-yard field goal try against the Saints on Aug. 5, then had the extra point blocked last weekend, Retkofsky was brought back.
"It's a glaring weakness that we have," coach Mike Tomlin said.
To address it, the Steelers worked on field goal protection during a full-contact drill Monday in practice. They also devoted another morning practice to special teams on Tuesday.
Reed said any kicker would be impressed how much time Tomlin is spending on the kicking game -- far more than either Bill Cowher or Chuck Noll did when they coached the Steelers.
For years under Noll, the Steelers didn't have a special teams coach; now they have two in former Pitt assistant Bob Ligashesky and assistant Amos Jones.
"He (Tomlin) not only talks about it, he puts it on the field," Reed said. "He gives the special teams coaches an hour every other day, and he has a lot of starters on there. The fact is he says it and does it, not just says it."
Even with Retkofsky back, Reed expects to work with Warren most of the time. While Warren may not have picked up the rusher up the middle on the blocked extra point, Reed said he is a polished snapper who is one of the best at what he does.
"Greg's taken every snap with me. Unless things change, I plan on Dan (Sepulveda, the punter) being my holder and Greg being my snapper. Greg's at a point in his career where he's in a groove. I don't really think anybody can get him out of that."
Reed himself is trying to be more consistent following an offseason. He missed seven of 27 field goal attempts last season, lowering his career percentage from 82.9 percent to 80 percent since he joined the Steelers midway through the 2002 season.
But Reed said he is encouraged by the power and the leg drive he has had in camp. He also said he doesn't expect the kicking game blocking problems to linger.
"That's the preseason. If it happens continuously during the season, there's a problem," he said.