Extra Points: Flu is latest issue for Broncos
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - Flu-ridden Denver kicker Matt Prater missed his third straight practice on Saturday as a precautionary measure.
The strong-legged Prater, who is battling a stomach virus, was sent home in an attempt to keep other members of the Broncos healthy as the team continues to prepare for Super Bowl XLVIII against Seattle on Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium.
The Broncos are scheduled to arrive in North Jersey on Sunday, and Prater is expected to be with the club.
"We've got hand washers ... all over the building," Denver coach John Fox said. "We sent him home, he's going to be fine for the game, hopefully he feels much better (Sunday) morning as we fly to New Jersey."
Keeping ill members of the organization away in an effort to curtail a more widespread problem has been a policy in Denver all season. In fact, at one point earlier in the year Broncos trainer Steve Antonopulos even sent Fox home for a day.
"It's happened all season, happened to every team in the league," Fox said. "Guys do get sick, just like any household in America. We feel confident (Prater) will be fine shortly."
The extra week between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl has certainly helped the Broncos in this instance because a healthy Prater is paramount to not only the kicking game but also the field position battle.
The veteran kicker is coming off a spectacular 2013 regular season in which he converted 25 of his 26 field attempts and kicked an NFL record 64-yard field goal against Tennessee as time expired in the first half on Dec. 8, earning both Pro Bowl recognition and second-team All-Pro honors for the first time in his career.
Prater ranked second in the NFL with a franchise-record 150 points and led the league in both field goal accuracy (96.2) and touchbacks. The Central Florida product also took advantage of the Broncos' high-octane offense to set a new standard for extra points in a single season with 75.
The good times have continued in the postseason where Prater has made five of his six field goal tries and each of his PATs, including a 4-for-4 performance in the AFC Championship Game this past Sunday.
Prater's record kick of 64 yards bested the previous mark of 63 set by New Orleans' Tom Dempsey 43 years ago, and equaled by former Bronco Jason Elam in 1998, as well as Sebastian Janikowski (2011) and David Akers (2012).
"It just kind of happened so quick," Prater said after the historic boot. "Just tried to blast it basically. It was so cold, I knew I hit it pretty good but I wasn't sure with the cold and everything it was going to get there. I saw the ref's hands go up and I can't even explain what I felt after."
Nailing a 64-yarder, as impressive as that is, would pale in comparison to say a try from 38 yards out with the Super Bowl on the line, a scenario that could be in Prater's immediate future.
Before this season the big knock on Prater, who was signed by the Broncos in 2007 off Miami's practice squad after entering the NFL with Detroit as an undrafted college free agent out of UCF, was consistency, probably an unfair criticism considering he owns the highest career field-goal percentage in Denver history at 82.9 percent and has connected on 21-of-27 from over 50 yards.
"Kicking is so mental," Prater explained. "There's a lot of people who can go out and kick, it's who can do it consistent in the pressure situations. I just really focus on my technique. I just tell myself to follow through, straight to where I'm going."
Prater only ups his productivity in those pressure situations, however, making 51-of-54 (.944) FGs in his career in the fourth quarter or overtime, including 8-of-8 in 2013.
"The only pressure you should feel is what you put on yourself," Prater said. "If you expect and think positive about what the results are gonna be, the results will be there."
01/25 20:15:56 ET