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Kaeding struggles continue

Discussion in 'Latest Chargers News & Headlines' started by robdog, Aug 16, 2005.

  1. robdog

    robdog Code Monkey Staff Member Administrator

    Jun 29, 2009
    Source: <a href="http://www.ocregister.com/ocr/2005/08/16/sections/sports/pro/article_636463.php">OC Regsiter</a>

    SAN DIEGO – This wasn't exactly what Nate Kaeding had in mind.

    Eight months after pushing the would-be winning field goal wide right in a playoff game against the New York Jets, the San Diego Chargers kicker missed all three of his attempts in the team's first exhibition game.

    Instead of erasing whatever doubts the playoff miss might have raised, Kaeding amplified them. Suddenly reporters are coming to his locker armed with questions about something Kaeding has been able to do all his life.

    "A lot of unwanted attention," Kaeding said after a recent training-camp practice. "That's the way it is. It's not the way I would've liked to have started off the preseason, but we've got three more tuneups before the regular season starts."

    Kaeding echoed the company line: The Chargers aren't worried about him now, and they will start worrying only if he continues to misfire in games that count.

    The questions will continue, however, until Kaeding, 23, starts making kicks again. He knows he can't afford to miss them in a Chargers season that's likely to feature its share of close games. They envision themselves as Super Bowl contenders, but their division is improved and their schedule is among the league's most difficult.

    "It's tough for me because I pride myself on being an integral part of this team," said Kaeding, whose next opportunity comes Sunday against St. Louis. "I score points. That's a big part of the game. It eats at me ... that I prevented our team from winning the preseason game, and the playoff game also. I want to gain these guys' respect, gain their confidence again."

    No problems there. Kaeding's teammates continue to support him, no matter the misses.

    "There isn't a player on this team who doesn't have the confidence that Nate's going to make that kick for us," defensive end Jacques Cesaire said. "We're all 100 percent behind him, plain and simple."

    Said cornerback Quentin Jammer: "If it came down to it, and we needed to make a field goal, and we had our pick of kickers to do it, we would all pick Nate because there's no way he's going to miss another game-winning field goal. He won't do it. It's in his head that he won't. Like they say, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. And I think that's going to make him stronger."

    Jammer sits across from Kaeding in the Chargers' locker room. Jammer knows what it's like to be a high draft pick and to struggle. Only now is the former fifth-overall selection starting to realize his shutdown-corner potential. He said it's all about confidence.

    "My confidence was gone kind of early, and I had to slowly build it back up," Jammer said. "It's hard to do that. But once you get it, it's down. And when you play with confidence, you feel like you could beat anybody."

    Kaeding's isn't at an all-time high. Whether its erosion began that January night against the Jets is disputable, but Kaeding continued to experience aftershocks in the exhibition opener.

    Eager to start making up for the wild-card miss, Kaeding rushed his delivery on a slippery Thursday evening in Green Bay. The result: three more misses, one frustrated kicker.

    "I was so anxious, having ended the season like I did last year," Kaeding said. "I didn't really handle the tempo or the situation very good. One thing led to another. The kicks kind of kept coming in an hour span. Not a good way to start."

    Kaeding's pro career began the way the Chargers had hoped. After spending a 2004 third-round draft pick on him – the highest a kicker had been selected since Oakland took Sebastian Janikowski in the first round in 2000 – they watched Kaeding make 21 of his first 26 field-goal tries. This was in keeping with his career at Iowa, where he set a school record by making 22 consecutive field goals, converted 24 of 29 career attempts from beyond 40 yards and missed just once in 21 tries as a senior.

    Before the Green Bay game, Kaeding had vowed never to relive the playoff miss, which he attributed to "thinking more about the situation than fundamentals." He was determined to transform it from a defining moment into a mere, ahem, footnote.

    He believed he was on track for a superior second season. After enduring what he called the "natural uncertainty" of moving from the cornfields of Iowa to the freeways of Southern California, Kaeding found comfort in his surroundings. Besides getting married in July, he had a more typical offseason, free of scouting combines and pre-draft workouts.

    The Chargers figured their kicking game, a problem since they parted ways with John Carney, wouldn't be a concern for the foreseeable future.

    "If you've made the right choice, you're probably set for 10 years," Chargers general manager A.J. Smith said, before adding: "Time will tell. I hope we've made the right choice."

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