WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. — Sean Payton arrived at the podium for his post-practice interview a little winded on Sunday night.
He can thank his kickers.
Dustin Hopkins and Zach Hocker both drilled 59-yard attempts with teammates trying to get in their heads during Sunday’s practice, drawing big cheers from the crowd and forcing the coaches to run as the result of one of Payton’s in-practice competitions.
“Two kickers, flip a coin, assign one to the offense, one to the defense,” Payton said. “They both made all four of their kicks. We backed it up to the 60, 59, and I threw in that little caveat that if they both make the tiebreaker, coaches run.”
Beyond the player’s satisfaction at seeing the coaches run, the fact that both Hopkins and Hocker reached from 59 is a good sign, particularly under a little pressure.
Teammates stayed in the kickers’ ears — Saints could be heard shouting “Wide right” at Hopkins in reference to Florida State’s infamous history of big missed kicks — and the two barely flinched.
To this point in camp, Hopkins is probably a little ahead of Hocker, who has missed a few, but the Saints were impressed the leg strength both displayed on Sunday.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Payton said. “Those guys both hit the 59-yard field goal, and that’s encouraging.”