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Cardinals K Phil Dawson explains how he’s become an NFL mainstay

San Francisco 49ers kicker Phil Dawson (9) smiles after an NFL football game against the St. Louis Rams in Santa Clara, Calif., Sunday, Jan. 3, 2016. The 49ers won 19-16 in overtime. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
LISTEN: Phil Dawson, Cardinals kicker

The signing of kicker Phil Dawson marked a move to stabilize a Cardinals special teams unit that struggled last season. The man he replaced, kicker Chandler Catanzaro, may have been a scapegoat or not, but what went overlooked was that in replacing him, Arizona had inked one of the NFL’s most steady kickers — ever.

Dawson, entering his 19th NFL season, ranks 15th in NFL history with 1,698 career points scored. He’s 10th with 404 total career field goal makes and ranks 11th in history by hitting 84.519 percent of all those attempts.

How’d he carve out such a long, prolific career?

“I am 42. Forty-two and a half,” Dawson told Bickley and Marotta on 98.7 FM, Arizona’s Sports Station. “I grew up being a football player, and when it became time to become a kicker, I said, well, I’ll just continue to approach it the way I would if I was a position player. I’ve continued to work hard all these years.”

The Cardinals will be Dawson’s third NFL team.

The one-time Pro Bowler and two-time Second Team All-Pro kicker played for the Cleveland Browns from 1999-2012 and spent the last four years with the San Francisco 49ers.

He said the opportunity to win this season drew him to sign with the Cardinals. And he feels like age hasn’t slowed him down a bit.

“Those first 10-12 years, I went at it pretty hard,” Dawson said. “Then I started to buy-in to the popular thinking: ‘Oh, you’re getting a little age on you, you need to be a little careful in the weight room, you need to watch your work load, you need to take care of yourself a little better.’ My career kind of became stale at that point.

“So about five years ago, I re-committed to going back to the old-school, you know, high intensity lifts, really pushing myself going after it hard. The last five to six years have been some of the best of my career.”

The statistics over the last two seasons bear that out.

Dawson hit 88.9 percent of his field goals in 2015, hitting all three attempts from 50-plus yards and going 6-for-8 from 40 to 49 yards. He missed one of his 10 kicks from 20 to 29 yards.

Last year, Dawson hit 85.7 percent of his kicks, hitting all 10 from 20 to 40 yards, going 7-for-9 from 40 to 49 yards and hitting 1-of-2 from 50 or more.

“It’s always been one kick at a time,” Dawson said. “I tell these young guys, that kind of approach allows you to be consistent. It won’t necessarily allow you to have the most fun.

“I’ll make a kick and it’s immediately on to the next kick. There’s no high fives on the sideline, there’s no waiving to my wife in the stands. It’s a tough, tough way to go about it, but I found that’s what allows me to show up every day and do my best.”

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