Niners kicker Fabrizio Scaccia stressed today that he decided to jump back in the Arena Football League to stay in good kicking shape.
That said, he conceded a paycheck doesn’t hurt either.
Scaccia became the fourth NFL player to join the AFL during the lockout when he signed with the Arizona Rattlers on Tuesday. Scaccia, 26, spent the final two weeks of the regular season on the 49ers practice squad and signed a futures contract after the season. Prior to signing with San Francisco, he played with the UFL’s Sacramento Mountain Lions and the Rattlers in 2010.
Scaccia only expects to earn about $6,000 to $7,000 if he plays the final 14 games of Arizona’s regular season, which ends on July 23. But he said those paychecks played a role in his decision to rejoin the AFL.
“For NFL veterans that have been in the league and have money, obviously the lockout’s unfortunate, but they can sit back and wait it out,” Scaccia said. “I mean, somebody like me, my mother and father are separated. My dad’s in New York. My mom’s in Florida and I try to help my mother out as much as I can. The money definitely had something to do with it.”
In addition to Scaccia, Browns receiver Rod Windsor, Cowboys receiver Troy Bergeron and Cardinals offensive tackle Cliff Louis are playing in the AFL. All four players finished the season on an NFL practice squad and were signed to futures contracts after the season. Their status on the NFL’s fringes helps explain why they are risking a possible career-ending injury by playing in the AFL during the lockout.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said any NFL player is currently free to sign with an AFL team. Contract stipulations that would typically prohibit such activity are not recognized during the lockout.
NFL teams still own the rights to its players who have signed with AFL teams. Those players would immediately report back to their NFL teams if the lockout ends during the AFL’s season. The Arena Bowl is scheduled for Aug. 12.
Scaccia and Windsor, who are playing with the Rattlers for the second straight season, were also teammates with the Sacramento Mountain Lions last year.
“When we heard about the lockout we talked to each other about it and figured we’d look into it and see if we could come back and play during the lockout,” Scaccia said. “We saw that it was allowed so we both decided to do it.”
Scaccia is an intriguing prospect who could compete with 49ers veteran placekicker Joe Nedney in training camp or, perhaps, claim a role as a kickoff specialist. In 2009, he made a 68-yard field goal, believed to be the second-longest in organized football history, while playing for the semi-pro St. Lucie (Fla.) Bobcats. Last year, he tied a UFL record with a 54-yard field goal and made 12 of 16 attempts. His shortest miss was from 48 yards.
He has worked extensively with former NFL special teams coach and kicking guru Gary Zauner the past two years outside Phoenix. He will stay in the area to play for the Rattlers. And prepare for what he hopes will be his first regular season on an NFL active roster.
“I look at it as a good way to stay in shape and for me, being a kicker, I can work on my accuracy aspect of the game,” Scaccia said. “You know, it’s hard to train on your own. I’ve been training real hard and I’m in great shape, but there’s a difference between being in good shape and being in good kicking shape. If I’m seeing a live snap and a live hold with a helmet and a crowd, it’s a good way to stay in good football shape for me.”
Scaccia’s brother, Massimo, signed with the AFL’s Philadelphia Soul on April 7. The brothers are scheduled to meet when Arizona visits Philadelphia on June 25.