Report: Cowboys working out CFL kicker before clash with Texans

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The Cowboys are, to hear them tell it, all set at the kicker position, despite the fact that their presumed specialist remains on the Physically Unable to Perform list. And that last year’s punter- who the team has all but admitted won’t be sticking around long because there’s a different punter waiting in the wings- has been learning how to kick field goals and extra points for the first time this preseason.

Now, just a couple days before the club’s third preseason game, Dallas is reportedly bringing in another kicker.

Yep, all set there.

NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero explained Tuesday that the Cowboys have scheduled a workout with free agent Lirim Hajrullahu. The 31-year-old is a Canadian Football League veteran, having played for three squads from 2014 to 2020. He was named a CFL All-Star twice.

The Carolina Panthers signed him to a reserve/future contract earlier this year, but waived him soon after. Prior to that, Hajrullahu spent the 2020 offseason with the Rams, where he just missed overlapping with special teams guru John Fassel, now the coordinator in Dallas.

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Fassel has expressed confidence that kicker Greg Zuerlein will be fully ready for the start of the regular season following offseason back surgery. Hunter Niswander, the young punter who took over for an injured Chris Jones last year- and then kept the job- has been handling all kicking duties during training camp. The club, though, has made it clear that they expect Bryan Anger, signed in April, to be their punter in 2021, and that Niswander was being allowed to learn kicking in camp to help him to build resume tape.

While Niswander is seen as the odd man out, the Hajrullahu workout does raise questions about the team’s kicking specialists heading into the season. They appear to have no kickers they have full confidence in for Saturday’s game.

Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram tweeted Tuesday that “there has been no setback” with Zuerlein, citing a source.

Zuerlein took warmup kicks prior to last week’s preseason tilt in Arizona; Anger did the holding for those and was active for the game, punting once. Niswander handled kicks, as he did in the Hall of Fame Game. He is 4-of-6 on field goal attempts with one PAT conversion this preseason.

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With Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy putting more importance on the team’s third exhibition game, perhaps the Niswander Kicking Experiment has reached its end. Or possibly Zuerlein isn’t as close to a return as the team would like. Or maybe Fassel wants to help another promising leg (who has ties to his friends on the Los Angeles staff) build some tape himself. Or perhaps he’s just staying abreast of current options, as he- and special teams coordinators in general- are prone to do.

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Or maybe the kicker who fled his native war-torn Kosovo as a boy and has now found his way to America’s Team is just too good a Hard Knocks story to pass up. Even if it is just for a couple weeks.

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