Kicking Competition A Friendly One

Posted Jul 26, 2013

Veteran Carpenter and rookie Sturgis are working together.

Roles have been reversed for Miami Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter in his sixth training camp compared to his first one back in 2008, as now he is the veteran trying to hold off the rookie, in this case Caleb Sturgis.

When Carpenter was the youngster on the practice field trying to make an impression, it was Jay Feely returning as the incumbent and Feely was coming off of the most accurate season for a Dolphins kicker. Carpenter ended up winning the job and remembers relying more on the coaches than on Feely or anyone else whenever he had questions.

“Obviously, when you’re the new guy you’re just kind of the outsider because that’s just how it happens,” said Carpenter, who made it the Pro Bowl after his second season in 2009. “Guys on the team have been together and you come in and when you’re young you’re new, they don’t know you and you don’t know them.”

Since that rookie season, Carpenter, long snapper John Denney and punter/holder Brandon Fields have been inseparable on and off the field. Their relationship is very strong and it’s natural to see the three of them together on the sideline while Sturgis is maybe off by himself.

Sturgis does have the luxury of being with some of his former teammates at the University of Florida in rookie linebacker Jelani Jenkins, rookie running back Mike Gillislee and third-year center Mike Pouncey. So he is not entirely alone, and he also has warmed up to Carpenter despite the fact that they are vying for the same job.

“He’s a good pro and he’s nice to me,” said Sturgis, who was chosen in the fifth round of April’s NFL Draft whereas Carpenter was undrafted. “He does his own thing, I do my own thing but there’s definitely nothing between us. I feel fine in the group. Again, they’ve had their routine for 5-7 years and I’m just coming in from college and I kind of had my own routine there so I’m just finding my way. But they’re great professionals and they’ve seen it all so this is normal for them.”

One aspect of this competition that is not so normal, especially for Fields, is adjusting to the style of Sturgis and some of the nuances of his approach to the ball. Carpenter is one of only two kickers that Fields has held for in his career, with Feely the other back in Fields’ rookie season of 2007.

“It’s kind of a big change for me,” Fields said. “Just the fact that his setup is different so the timing is different so I have to adjust and just the hold, he wants it different than Dan does. So I’m taking a lot of reps with him looking over my shoulder so he can adjust me to how I need to change the hold to let him do the best he can.”

Fields described the rapport between Carpenter and Sturgis as amicable, which he said was different than the one that existed between Carpenter and Feely. They know they are competing against each other so in essence one is trying to take the other’s job and that is evident, but as Fields pointed out there’s no hatred.

The awkwardness that does exist among the group being that Carpenter, Fields and Denney have been a close-knit unit for so long and Sturgis is the newcomer, is something that Fields is aware of. He has taken Sturgis aside to talk to him and give him some tips now and then, while Carpenter balances the alternating days of kicking with keeping his focus on retaining his job.

“At times it’s nice because you’re able to stay fresh and you’re able to work really hard on one day and fortunately have a spare day off,” Carpenter said. “He hasn’t asked too much and he’s got the coaches and Brandon and John to ask questions of, but if he did ask me something I’m not going to give him false information. I’ll answer the question because we’re teammates and I’m going to respect what’s going on and ultimately all I can control is what I can do on the field. So I’m just going to show what I can do and make it hard for the guys upstairs.”
Game Pass: Miami Dolphins