It was wet and windy when Saints kicker Shayne Graham missed from 45 and 47 yards in his team’s NFC divisional playoff loss at Seattle in January.
But speaking more than three months later at a celebrity golf shootout in Avondale, Graham still refused to give himself a pass on the unsuccessful tries.
“Any time you deal with that kind of wind and weather, it makes everything a lower percentage,” said Graham, who has been on the game-day rosters of nine NFL teams since 2001. “But I won’t change my stance that I still know what my job is, and I know what I have to do and perform and what my expectations are for myself and team, the players and coaches.”
Better days have come for Graham nonetheless.
He signed a new one-year contract with the Saints in February for a base salary of $955,000. New Orleans also re-upped his holder for four total games last season, backup quarterback Luke McCown.
“It’s always good to have continuity,” Graham said.
And it’s one less thing to worry about as he focuses on the competition to keep his job, which a younger prospect will also audition for this preseason.
Graham signed with the Saints on Dec. 18 after kicker Garrett Hartley was released last year. He was 2-for-2 in field goals during the final two games of the regular season, at the end of which New Orleans qualified for the postseason as a wild card.
That move paid off for the Saints on Jan. 4 in Philadelphia, when Graham made field goals from 36, 46, 35 and 32 yards. The final one came on the last play of the game for a 26-24 win, marking the franchise’s first postseason victory on the road.
Seattle was a stark reversal of fortune, one that Graham has turned the page on.
“Everyone who looks back at last season knows that was last season,” Graham said. “We all know we make big plays. We all know we make mistakes. All I can do at this point is move on and prepare myself physically and (mentally) — dealing with more visualization things and positive thoughts about my future and not dwelling on the past anymore.”
Those positive thoughts might come easier with McCown in the fold. Graham, 36, said he spoke with his holder about getting together on their own time as often as possible to rehearse snaps, building “muscle memory (and) good habits” in the process.
McCown was more than receptive to the idea.
“He wants to be really good and be better — not that he wasn’t good, but he’s such a guy that wants to work so hard that he wanted to do some extra (things),” Graham said. “Anytime you see guys (together) working hard, it always builds confidence within your core.”
After training in Houston (where he played with the Texans in 2012) for the first part of the offseason, Graham is back in New Orleans to lift weights, run and kick ahead of the preseason battle he’s anticipating with 24-year-old Derek Dimke.
Dimke, out of Illinois, signed a contract that put him on the Saints’ expanded 2014 preseason roster a couple of days before the Philadelphia playoff game. He was 6-of-7 for Tampa Bay and 2-of-2 for Detroit in the 2013 and 2012 preseasons, but he didn’t make either team.
Like Graham, Dimke was part of a group of kickers that worked out for the Saints in November, when Hartley was in the throes of some accuracy struggles that ultimately cost him his job.
Graham said he has known Dimke “for a few years” and is looking forward to — in all likelihood — going to training camp with him, even if they’re vying for the same job.
“We’ll get along great,” Graham said. “(Competition) doesn’t mean that (coaches) aren’t happy with you. It just means they want competition. And that’s what drives this business and this game.”