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Kaeding expects to be healthy in 2012
SAN DIEGO – Nate Kaeding had only missed three games in his eight-year career prior to the 2011 season. On the opening kickoff Sept. 11 against Minnesota, Kaeding tore his anterior cruciate ligament trying to tackle Percy Harvin and was placed on Injured-Reserve.
Flash forward four months and Kaeding has taken the challenge of rehabilitation by the horns and expects to be kicking by the end of January.
“I’m confident this thing will heal up. I’m ahead of schedule if anything,” Kaeding said. “I’ll pick up where I left off.
“This has given me a chance to take a step back, because when you’re doing it for seven, eight years, you don’t have that chance. It’s given me a little different perspective on the game certainly and it’s without a doubt rejuvenated me.”
Kaeding has made 173 of 200 (86.5 percent) regular-season field goal attempts in his career and has missed just two of his 345 extra point attempts.
Kaeding’s injury forced the Chargers to improvise. They didn’t have another kicker on their active roster, so punter Mike Scifres inherited placekicking duties and All-Pro safety Eric Weddle replaced Scifres for the remainder of the game against Minnesota.
Scifres sent a game-tying 40-yard field goal through the uprights on his first field goal attempt since college as the Chargers went on to beat the Vikings, 20-17.
But Scifres’ double duty didn’t linger into Week 2 as the Chargers signed Nick Novak, who had just been released by the New York Jets a few weeks earlier and was in training camp with the Chargers in 2010.
Novak and Scifres combined to make 28 of 35 field goal attempts. With Scifres returning to his holding duties, the duo converted all but one of 42 extra point attempts.
Both Kaeding and Novak are under contract through 2012. Kaeding, the NFL’s most accurate regular-season kicker of all time, planned to rehab at Chargers Park five or six days a week in January and is on track to play in 2012. He wants to be in San Diego long term.
“I’m pretty damn proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish in my seven years playing here with the Chargers. I expect big things from me,” Kaeding said. “I hope to play seven or eight more years here. I feel like I’m going to come back stronger than I did before with a different perspective on the game and go from there. I look to take this thing to the next level throughout the rest of my career.”
Prior to the 2010 season, Kaeding appeared in 96 consecutive games. There’s no doubt the ACL injury took a physical toll, but watching his teammates from the sidelines also had a mental impact.
“It’s the first time for me obviously and hopefully the last. That’s probably the hardest thing,” Kaeding said about being on the sidelines. “Physically I can handle the rehab, but just the emotional part of sitting there and not being able to go out and compete and do what you prepared to do and what you’ve committed your life to doing, that’s a tough thing.”