Cowboys having Buehler, Folk compete for field goal duties

IRVING, Texas -- Nick Folk's fifth straight game with a missed field goal cost him his unquestioned status as the kicker for the Dallas Cowboys.

It probably won't cost him his job, though, at least not this week.

The Cowboys are making Folk split kicks in practice with kickoff specialist David Buehler this week, but Buehler's inexperience and his awful start to this competition on Tuesday makes this more of a change to Folk's routine that coaches hope will get him to snap out of his slump.

"I felt like we needed to do something, again, to change the atmosphere a little bit," coach Wade Phillips said.

Last week, Dallas hoped a change of holders would do the trick, turning the duty over to quarterback Tony Romo. Folk made his first kick, then missed his next one.

The Cowboys considered all their options and decided patience is the best course. The lack of a good alternative factored in, too.

"It's not like you just go out there and grab people," Phillips said. "You can grab people that haven't done it or had bigger slumps than his."

Going with the in-house option of Buehler isn't as easy as it seems. He was drafted in the fifth round strictly for his kickoffs and has only worked sparingly on his field goals.

His rust showed Tuesday. All three of his attempts went wide right, some of them not even coming close. None was longer than 35 yards, said Phillips, who emphasized how windy it was.

Kicking from the same spots, Folk wasn't much better, going 2 of 4.

"This guy's been a good one and he's young," Phillips said. "It makes me think he can come back if he's mentally strong enough. I've talked to him and he seems to be that way. ... Sometimes they get in a slump like a baseball player hitting a baseball. The good ones get in a slump, it's just not clicking for them. But the good ones come back in a streak. That's what we're hoping with him."

So, all things considered, Folks will get another chance?

"That's what I would presume right now," Phillips said.

Folk has missed six of his last nine kicks headed into Saturday night's game at New Orleans. His eight misses this season are more than he had his first two years combined. Every point is crucial for the Cowboys (8-5), who have lost two straight to blow their spot atop the NFC East.

Although Folk had offseason hip surgery, he said his health is fine. He doesn't have any specific reason for his problems, saying something different goes wrong every time.

He understands that coaches and teammates "probably are questioning (me) right now," but he's trying to remain confident.

"You've just got to know that you can do it, then tell yourself you can do it and go out there and do it again," Folk said.

Buehler was drafted specifically to boom kickoffs, and he's done that with 21 touchbacks. He hasn't attempted a single field goal this season but was 26 of 33 in two years at Southern California.

"Eventually, to have longevity in this league, I need to be able to kick field goals," Buehler said. "I'm not going to be a kickoff specialist my whole career. So I need to fine-tune that and be able to be a reliable field-goal kicker."

Buehler said he's been kicking a few field goals in practice, but not many and not as seriously as he needs to now.

"Most of all, it's mental," he said. "I mean, going out there and getting back into that rhythm and doing the consistent motion every single time. ... I'm going to be there if need be. Who knows when they'll need me, if they'll need me at all."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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