METAIRIE - Injured kicker Garrett Hartley is expected to be sidelined until early October, necessitating the presence of veteran kicker John Kasay on the New Orleans Saints’ 53-man roster through the first month of the regular season.
Hartley, one of the many heroes during the team’s Super Bowl XLIV championship run in 2009, suffered a right hip flexor while converting an extra point in the Saints’ 40-20 victory against the Oakland Raiders last Sunday night at O.co Coliseum.
That injury prompted the signing of the 41-year-old Kasay to a one-year contract Tuesday, fueling speculation that Hartley’s injury might be more serious than team officials initially stated.
Consequently, Saints coach Sean Payton is expected to carry two kickers on his 53-man roster to start the season. NFL teams must pare their rosters from 80 to 53 by 4 p.m. Saturday.
Kasay, a well-decorated 21-year veteran who has spent the last 16 seasons with the Carolina Panthers, made his Saints debut Thursday night in the Saints’ 32-9 exhibition loss to the Tennessee Titans at the Superdome.
It was not an auspicious start by any means. Kasay missed wide left on a 39-yard field goal attempt as time expired in the first half. He missed wide left again on an extra point attempt in the fourth quarter, drawing a smattering of boos from the sparse crowd still in attendance for the fourth and final exhibition game of the preseason.
Kasay, perhaps, atoned for those earlier miscues with a picture-perfect 38-yard field goal with 35 seconds remaining. If nothing else, it helped to restore his confidence as the Saints now turn their attention to Thursday night’s nationally-televised game against the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
“This is not what you dream about,’’ Kasay told reporters late Thursday night at the Superdome. “But that’s the life of what I do. My job is to make kicks. That’s why they brought me here, so I didn’t do a very good job tonight.’’
Asked if there were issues with the snaps from long snapper Justin Drescher and the placements by backup quarterback Chase Daniel, Kasay replied: “My job is to put the ball between the posts, and I didn’t do that tonight. That’s my job.’’
How long Kasay has a job in New Orleans remains to be seen. Barring the unexpected, it likely will be his until Hartley gets back on the field early next month, either at Jacksonville on Oct. 2 or at Carolina on Oct. 9.
“No promises were made and I expected no promises from them,’’ said Kasay when asked if Saints officials had presented him with a timetable as to how long his services would be needed.
“That’s completely out of my hands. I try to do the best I can and try to help this team win football games. That’s what it’s all about. There are no guarantees in this business. It’s a bottom-line performance business and that’s my job to perform, and missing two kicks, that’s not good. As I’ve said, there are no guarantees in this business. If you don’t perform they’ll find somebody else to do the job.’’
Afterward, Payton dismissed internet accounts that claimed Hartley could be sidelined upwards of 10 weeks, saying “that report is inaccurate.’’
“I thought that third kick was critical,’’ Payton said of Kasay’s successful 38-yard field goal during the waning moments of a lopsided game. “I thought it was important for his own confidence. Look, he’s kicked in a lot of big spots. And yet a game like this may not seem like a lot to a lot of people, (but) for that very moment in time, for a veteran kicker who’s missed the first two kicks, it’s a very important kick.
“So, I was encouraged, and I was glad we had another opportunity to put him out on the field.’’
Saints running back Patrick Cobbs left the Superdome on Thursday night wearing a walking boot on his left foot. Cobbs accounted for 49 all-purpose yards on 13 touches. ? Players are off Saturday and will open game preparations for the Packers with practice from 11:30 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. Sunday.