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Gramatica to celebrate less after kicks

Associated Press

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- There will be no more jumping for joy after field goals for Bill Gramatica.

Happiness, yes. Some sign of elation, certainly. But none of the wild exuberance that resulted in a torn knee ligament that ended Gramatica's rookie season after 13 games last year.

"The feeling that I have after kicking a field goal, I'm not going to lose,'' Gramatica said after booting a few soaring field goals in Arizona's morning workout Tuesday. "But the way I express it is something that's going to change.

"I couldn't tell you right now what I'm going to do, but I know it's not going to be jumping around.''

Coach Dave McGinnis was not amused when the injury occurred, but he can joke about it now.

"It was freak. It freaked me out,'' McGinnis said. "The next big game-winner he kicks, he can come jump on me. If I blow my ACL out, I can coach from a golf cart. We don't need that in the first quarter. I need both ACLs at least until the fourth quarter.''

Gramatica had just kicked a routine 42-yard field goal in the first quarter of a Dec. 15 game against the Giants in New York, when he began jumping around in elation as he always did.

But he landed awkwardly on his right knee, and hobbled off the field. He came back for a 26-yarder late in the game, but subsequent medical tests showed that his season was over.

The incident was shown over and over on national television, and Gramatica became the butt of many jokes. He hid his irritation as he responded repeatedly to questions about the incident.

"It's just something that happened,'' he said. "I'm not ashamed of it. It's the person that I am. People can say whatever they want. They don't feel the way I do about this game.''

Before he was hurt, Gramatica was having a good rookie season. He had made 16 of 20 field goals, 11 of 12 from inside 40 yards. He shared special team player-of-the-week honors with his brother Martin, kicker for Tampa Bay. Both had kicked game-winners. Bill's was a 36-yarder in overtime to give Arizona an upset victory at Oakland.

Gramatica's penchant to celebrate comes from his soccer-playing days, when every goal is celebrated as if it clinched the World Cup.

If soccer is to blame, it also gets credit for Gramatica's solid progress in rehabilitation.

Ten to 12 weeks after surgery, Gramatica began kicking a soccer ball around with Martin and his younger brother Santiago, who kicks for South Florida, Bill's alma mater.

At first, he would kick about 10 yards, then he'd back up to 30, 40 and 50.

"The planting and the footwork are all the same,'' he said. "The ball's lighter, and you don't have to get so much height or kick it as hard, so it kind of takes the pressure off my knee. That's the way I've strengthened it, and that's the way I've worked at losing the fear.''

Although he hasn't attempted kickoffs yet, Gramatica has looked good on field goals.

"I felt good today,'' he said. "The knee hasn't hurt since I've been in camp, but the last two days I put more pressure on my knee, and felt more comfortable kicking the ball.''

When that first field goal sails through the uprights in a game, Gramatica will have to temper his natural instinct to go airborne.

"I don't think it will be that hard, because I know everything I went through,'' he said, "and ... by not playing, I hurt the team. That's something that I hate.''