The San Francisco 49ers face off against the Cleveland Browns this weekend, and the game marks Phil Dawson's return to his long-time home. Dawson spent 14 years in Cleveland before signing with the 49ers as a free agent in 2013. In his three years with the 49ers, he had a strong first season, took a step back last season, and this year is putting together as good a season as he's ever had. He is currently 18 of 19 on field goals, with a long of 54 yards. He is a free agent after this season, but seems like he would be amenable to returning for another season.
Dawson met with the media on Wednesday, and it was a great conversation. He went into some detail about his return to Cleveland, and what the means. He also talked about his preparation process and what he considers in deciding the hashmark he will use for extra points. But the most interesting discussion was about the field conditions at Soldier Field. Dawson had one extra point blocked, and he said the second extra point was tipped. It's an intriguing discussion worth reading (or watching in the link above).
On emotions returning to Cleveland:
Well, I'll admit it it's a special week. Not only for me, but for my family. So I don't want to just cruise past that. I'll admit it, but if you were to ask me what a true homecoming week is, it's one full of reminiscing, and remembering, and talking about the good ol' days, and I just don't have that luxury this week. I have a job to do. I have to focus in on what I need to do to help my team win a game. So, I'm really not approaching this as a homecoming week. There'll be a time for all that, probably when I'm not playing on a Sunday. And I look forward to that week, but this week isn't it.
On Browns planning anything for him:
Not that I know of specifically. So I'm just going to go out there and stick to my normal routine. It'll be a unique set of circumstances, not knowing what to expect, but at the end of the day I just need to focus in on what my job is.
On if playing Browns this week makes it harder:
Well, like I said, it's a unique week for me and my family. But every week has its circumstances that are competing for your focus, and so, this will be one of the more unique ones. But it doesn't change the fact that I just have to zero in and do my job.
On pre-game routine specifically for Cleveland stadium:
I have a specific pre-game routine that's pretty common for wherever I go. Some stadiums require a little extra time on the field, and this would qualify as one of those, just given the, assessing the field conditions, trying to figure out what the wind is, all those kinds of things. And I know they've done some renovations to the stadium since I was there, so I gotta get in there and see if that's affected what I know to be true of the wind. It'll be a little extra time on the field this week, but nothing drastically different than what I normally do.
What time will he first be on the field for a 1pm ET game:
Well, we'll probably go over to the stadium 8:30, so I'll probably go out on the field about 9:15.
On Browns turnover and if he still knows anybody there:
I'm still close with the equipment guys over there. We had a good time, and they're still grinding away back in the equipment room, so I'll make sure and say hi to them. There's some players over there that I played with, so I look forward to seeing them. But like I said, it's a work week. That's just the way I approach it. I look forward to the week where I can go back and truly relax, and enjoy everything, and talk about the good ol' days, but that's not this week.
On if mild weather will mean better than normal field conditions:
Well, it's a trade off. When it's cold, the wind doesn't blow as much. So with 60 degree weather, the wind's gonna be up. Choose your poison. So I'm gonna have to get in there and see what the wind's doing, because the forecast shows pretty significant winds. And in that stadium, when it comes out southwest, that's the toughest wind. We're gonna have our hands full, but that's not the first time I've done it there. So just have to get back there and figure it out.
On weather tradeoff in Chicago:
Soldier Field's traditionally a tough place to kick, and I don't think it's any secret that the field's traditionally been an issue there. I remember Bears players even saying it. And so, last week that's what made Chicago tough. We were really lucky with the temperature and the winds, they were both very good. Like I said, each and every week there's something you gotta overcome, and I think this week in Cleveland, I'm anticipating the wind being that obstacle.
On Gould's 36-yard miss being not as surprising given the field:
I can't speak for him, but I know that extra point I made to tie the game is my favorite kick of my career. And that's 33 yards, so that shows you how confident I was out there. So I knew anything was possible, but I have to admit I was surprised because Robbie's about as good as there is, or ever has been.
On why that extra point:
Because I knew how hard it was to kick out there at that point in time, and they had already gotten their hands on one. So, tough spot to be in.
On blocked XP earlier being product of toughness getting ball in the air:
I think it was a combination. I think if I hit the ball like I normally do, even with the penetration we gave up, the ball goes through. And I told the guys that. We appreciate the job they do up front. That's a selfless job they do. We just have to understand the environment we were in, how it all works together, and let's not making a bigger issue out of it than we need to. But let's move forward and have the confidence we can get the job done.
On if he embraces the new difficulty of extra points:
Nah, I still hate the rule. I read all the tweets, "it's great for the game" and all that. I don't know of another area in football where you see percentages go down, or you see failure increase and people celebrate that. But, it is what it is, and you just have to go out there and try to make those kicks.
On how conscious he is of hashmarks where he wants to kick and when he considers it:
I do it throughout the game. Specifically in Chicago, at the end of the third quarter, I went out on the field and I looked at both 23-yard lines, left and right, and I didn't feel comfortable at all with the left hash, given the condition of the field there. So I went over to the right, and I looked at that 23-yard line, and it looked pretty good, so that's why I chose that.
On why not the middle:
I don't like the middle. But don't write that, give away house secrets.
On what made the PAT his favorite:
It's a combination, you know all year, I've been waiting for that game-tying PAT, because it's not a PAT anymore, it's a field goal. So I knew there was going to be a point in the season, where we were down seven, we were gonna score a dramatic touchdown late in the game, and I was going to have to go out and make what's now a field goal to tie it. So I was interested to see how I would feel in that situation. So there was the build-up. And then on top of that, take the conditions of Chicago, and given what had happened on the first PAT, I just think it was a mixture of a lot of stuff going into it. No one else in the stadium thinks twice about it, but for me, and the way I approach it, I was pretty proud of being able to get it through.
On what he saw from his vantage point after kicking it and how it moved around people's hands:
Oh yea, It got tipped.
Comparing that kick to playoff FG in Green Bay:
They're all beautiful to me. You've gotta have a short memory in this business, and it's one kick at a time. So I remember, that Green Bay kick was the greatest one at that point in time, but you just move forward. Like I said, all those reasons coming together at once, that's why I liked this last one.
On why he stuck in Cleveland as they struggled:
It was a job. One of 32 jobs in the world. You can't be very picky in my line of work. But I always considered it a privilege to be a Cleveland Brown, and was grateful to have a job, and just put my head down and went to work. And before you know it, you were there 14 years, and that's just kind of how it happened. And brought the same attitude here, and almost three years down here.
On if he's prepared for any kind of reception from Browns fans:
Nah, I don't think I am. I think I'm just going to go in there and try to zero in on the job at hand. There'll be a week where I can soak it all in and reminisce and all that, but not this week. I just gotta focus on my job. Kicking in Cleveland deserves your full attention in December, so that's where my focus is gonna be.