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Point of life isn't missed

Football history says nobody's wackier than a placekicker. Many have been psyche suckers. Prone to mental meltdown. In less than a month of Sundays, an NFL foot soldier can so easily go from uprights perfection to misfiring mystery to career-crippling dejection.

Don't expect Mike Husted to similarly disintegrate, even with his three extra-point fluffs in four games. Tampa Bay's FG/PAT specialist has too much stability, talent, reality and grit.

Husted's brain is not shaped like a football. He keeps up with foreign affairs, Wall Street and politics. Michael has rare balance for his profession. He's much too sane to be committed to the placekicker nut house.

That said, as Michael's next opportunity comes today against the Colts, the 26-year-old Virginian is fighting to overcome the deepest of human distractions. Laboring to recapture the tunnel vision that is a placekicker prerequisite.

Husted's mother, Ann, was diagnosed with cancer in February. Her condition is worsening. It's always on Mike's mind. Then, just last week, his best lifetime pal telephoned with additional news that shivered No. 5 of the Bucs.

Husted's sidekick since junior high school, Mike Honour, has a terminal brain tumor. Two years ago, Honour had a growth surgically removed from his head. Then came this new one, which is much worse. "He called to say goodbye," Husted said. Honour has two children. Suddenly, a fouled-up PAT didn't seem so monumental.

"I don't want to make excuses," Husted said. "We all have burdens to bear. But this does put everything into perspective. I don't think there's an hour or even a minute that I don't wonder how she (his mother) is doing. I speak with her every day."

Still, professional life goes on for Husted. All week, he has addressed questions about his kicking slump, answering with candor, class and courage. "Michael is an outstanding athlete, not just a placekicker," Bucs coach Tony Dungy said. "A tough human being. He'll be fine. Our confidence is high."

Before his recent PAT failures, Husted had never had a legitimate miss in four-plus NFL seasons. He hit 103 straight before an extra point was blocked last year against Arizona. Blocked, not missed. There had not been a pure miss in 116 tries until things began going awry Sept. 28 with a wide kick against those same Arizona Cardinals.

"When it suddenly goes wrong, you search," Husted said. "You can go downward. I'm disappointed. But life's too short to worry about everything people say." For Michael, the foundation for that last sentence has been definitively and emotionally reinforced.

Points-after kicks are figured as automatic acts. Easy as a 16-inch putt in golf, a wide-open basketball layup or an empty-net goal in hockey. When there are errors, questions arise about technique and/or focus.

Ironically, Husted has missed just one field goal in seven attempts this season _ highly acceptable 85 percent accuracy. But in PATs, he's a wobbly 14-for-17 for 82 percent. Attention to Husted's struggles intensified with a vital, ground-gouging misfire against Detroit a week ago as the Bucs were losing a third straight game.

Still, no excuses.

Husted lost a steady ally three weeks ago when punter Tommy Barnhardt was injured making a tackle and was shelved for the season. A 13-year pro, Barnhardt had been Husted's holder. In the NFL, there have been repeated stories of placekickers going into a confidence funk due to a change in holders. Mike leans on no such crutch.

"Steve (Walsh), after we got adjusted to each other, has been an outstanding holder," Husted said. "There's nobody to blame but me. I'm supposed to make those kicks, but it's useless to dwell on it. I'm going out this week against the Colts and do my very best. That's all I can ask of myself."

All anybody should ask.