Kickers believe heavily in routine and often are superstitious, so when Miami Dolphins kicker
Former San Diego Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding, who was signed immediately to handle the kicking duties for Miami in the final two games, was slated to start for the AFC in the 2010 Pro Bowl in Miami. He injured his groin on the Wednesday before the game during a practice at St. Thomas Aquinas, prompting a phone call to Carpenter.
The memorable aspect of that situation was that Carpenter was on a bicycle tour in the Everglades and had no cell phone service. It wasn’t until he returned hours later and saw a bunch of missed calls and voice mails that he found out he was going back to work. His first practice he wore a No. 5 practice jersey with no name on the back.
“I just saw him real quick as I was heading into the training room,” said Carpenter of his introduction to Kaeding this afternoon. “I just said hi to him and welcome.”
Carpenter ended up going 2-of-3 on field goals of 30 and 26 yards and a perfect 4-of-4 on extra points. The AFC held off the NFC, 41-34, in an offensive showdown at Sun Life Stadium.
Now Kaeding will try to help the Dolphins down the stretch, as they still remain alive in the playoff race. He was 7-of-7 on field goal attempts and 6-of-6 on extra points in three games this season before re-injuring his groin and landing on IR. Kaeding, the most accurate kicker in NFL history at 87.0 percent, also missed all of last season with a torn ACL suffered on the opening kickoff of the first game.
“It certainly was a whirlwind. I left San Diego last night at about 9:30 (Pacific Time) and jumped on the red-eye and got here and kicked this morning,” Kaeding said. “I’m certainly excited about the opportunity and am looking forward to helping the football team win a game on Sunday.”
Today was the only practice the kicking battery of Kaeding, Fields and long snapper John Denny will have before the Bills come to town, but Fields thinks they will be okay come game day.
“It’s just getting used to how he wants the ball held,” Fields said. “Every kicker wants it a certain way. So that’s what we worked on today, just him and I getting it exactly how he wants it. Obviously we’ll see on Sunday. We’ll have a lot more time during warm-ups, where we’ll have more game-like situations. But it wasn’t anything major that Nate wanted compared to how Dan does it.”
Head Coach Joe Philbin has been busy putting together the game plan for the Bills game so even though he was familiar with Kaeding from their days together at the University of Iowa, he was not involved in bringing him in for the workout.
Of course, adding a kicker of Kaeding’s stature is a big plus for Miami.
“He has demonstrated a record of success as a kicker in this league,” Philbin said. “He’s a hard worker. He’s a true professional and I’m sure he’ll do a great job for us.”
Besides dealing with the emotional stress of leaving his wife and three children behind in San Diego just before the holidays, Kaeding understands that there will be an adjustment period. That is why he is thankful he has Denney and Fields to lean on.
“I’m certainly really fortunate to be around two experienced guys with those two guys,” said Kaeding, who kicked this morning for the front office and coaching staff before signing. “I got some good work in this morning and I’m just relying on my nine years of experience to get you through on Sunday. But it’s definitely a real benefit to have two experienced guys and a great snapper and a great holder there to work with. I’ve played pretty much in every stadium in the NFL. You get out there on game day and you’re pretty much able to judge which way the wind is going each way and then you let it fly.”
Kaeding surely will let it fly against the Bills in the home finale.
## With Christmas right around the corner, there was only one song played outside during stretching and warm-ups and that was the Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band classic, “Merry Christmas, Baby.” Cooler temperatures made it possible for the team to hold its entire practice outside of the bubble.