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Broncos kicker Elam off to a wild start

DENVER -- The wildest start of Jason Elam's 15-year career is equal parts horrific and historic.

The Broncos' kicker, who has scored more points for one team than anyone else in NFL history, has already missed three field goals after missing just twice all last year.

He's also had two game-winning kicks, one more than he had in 2006.

On Wednesday, he was named the AFC's special teams player of the week, then went out to the practice field early in search of answers.

"It has been a strange start," said the three-time Pro Bowler who is the first kicker to make winning field goals in consecutive weeks since Ryan Longwell did it for Green Bay in 2004.

Elam's 23-yarder in overtime beat Oakland 23-20 Sunday, one week after he rushed onto the field with 10 seconds and no timeouts left and nailed a 42-yarder as time expired to beat Buffalo 15-14.

"Had the games not ended like they did the last two weeks, it would be a lot different," said Elam, who missed twice against the Bills and once against the Raiders. "Fortunately, we've been just good enough. Now, I'm not very pleased with that, but in the NFL, that's what counts."

Elam doesn't believe his issues are physical, because he feels fine, nor does he think they're mechanical, because he's hitting the ball true in practice and pregame warmups.

"I haven't missed a kick in practice in three weeks," he said. "And I think I was 15-for-16 during pregame warmups Sunday. So, I feel the last thing I need to do is go and change anything. I mean, if I was shanking them all over the place in practice, then it is something mechanical. But that hasn't been the case.

"I'm healthy. I feel good. I feel fine."

So, he won't tinker too much.

"I've had a bunch of these times in my career where I miss a bunch of these kicks and everyone's like, 'What's wrong?' Well, nothing. It just happens," Elam said. "You just realize over a long career you're going to have some adversity at times and you just keep working through them."

What is the deal then?

Maybe he just hasn't gotten used to his new holder, Todd Sauerbrun, after enjoying Jake Plummer's lightning-quick reflexes the past few years.

Elam admits he was spoiled by having Tom Rouen as his holder for eight straight seasons early in his career. He's had to make training camp adjustments many times since: "I've had a bunch of different holders the last few years. It's not ideal. It's not what a kicker wants to go through. But it's what everybody has to deal with."

Elam's bounce-back acumen is one reason he's the least of coach Mike Shanahan's worries as the Broncos prepare for the Jacksonville Jaguars' visit Sunday.

"No, he's smart enough to wipe it out," Shanahan said. "He's been a great kicker for a lot of years and that's just part of the profession. You've got to be able to wipe those out. He's strong enough mentally to do it."

And the Broncos believe he's also tough enough to get things fixed quickly.

"You want to be as optimistic as possible when you're right in the middle of it and if there was something wrong that I recognized, I'd definitely be working on it," Elam said. "But I don't see anything. It's just keep working, keep working."

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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