His career had a bumpy start in Cincinnati, but Cardinals kicker Neil Rackers has emerged as one of the NFL’s best. Just don’t ask him about it.
"I really don’t know," Rackers said. "I don’t think that matters to me as much as my teammates know they can count on me.
"I am blessed to have a phenomenal snapper (Nathan Hodel) and holder (Scott Player) so I don’t have to worry about those things. Really, all that matters is what my teammates and what this organization thinks of me."
Rackers has been the Cards’ MVP during their dismal start, converting all 10 of his field-goal attempts and scoring 31 of the Cardinals’ 43 points this season. His total leads all NFL kickers, and he is second in the NFL behind the 36 points of San Diego’s LaDainian Tomlinson.
He is also one of the best kickoff men in the league, tying for the league lead with seven touchbacks among his 15 kickoffs.
Rackers downplays his success, perhaps knowing that his big numbers usually mean the offense isn’t finishing drives. That much is true — the Cards have scored one offensive touchdown this season, and no touchdowns the past two games.
He could have another big game Sunday night in Mexico City. Four of his field-goal attempts have been at least 40 yards, including a 50- and 54-yarder last week in Seattle. With the high altitude (around 7,300 feet), Rackers might be in position to challenge the NFL record of a 64-yard field goal.
Whether he gets that chance, Cards coach Dennis Green said, depends on the circumstances such as the wind, any rain, and the risk of giving the 49ers good field position on a miss.
But, Green said, "obviously the ball will take flight."
The Cardinals, hurting at cornerback with the knee surgery to Antrel Rolle and the sore hamstring of David Macklin, re-signed veteran Robert Tate Thursday.
They cut linebacker Lester Towns, who wasn’t needed with James Darling returning from his knee injury. Macklin said his hamstring felt better again Thursday. He has never missed a game in his NFL career, a streak that has reached 83. "I don’t want to start now," Macklin said.
To hedge his bets, Green said all five cornerbacks now on the roster — Macklin, Tate, Raymond Walls, Eric Green and Lamont Reid — will all be active against the 49ers.
The 49ers are having defensive issues themselves. Cornerback Mike Rumph was placed on injured reserve this week with a foot injury, and fellow starting cornerback Ahmed Plummer is out with a bad ankle. On top of that, reserve linebacker Jamie Winborn, upset with his role, has left the team and will be traded. . . .
Injured Cards linebacker Gerald Hayes was at practice Thursday as an observer, but he said he is still far from returning. He has tried to run on his surgically repaired knee a couple of times but he said doctors are having him back off a little bit as part of the rehab process. . . .
Running back James Jackson (hamstring), linebacker Eric Johnson (hamstring) and fullback Harold Morrow (ankle) sat out practice Thursday.