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Kaeding Looking to Make Up for Lost Time
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To call Nate Kaeding’s 2011 campaign devastating would be an understatement. Shortly after unleashing the season’s opening kick-off, he planted his left leg and tore his ACL as Percy Harvin returned the ball for a touchdown.
Just 15 seconds into the season, his year was over.
“Last season was hard,” Kaeding said following the team’s special teams walk-through on Saturday. “I played all through high school, college and the NFL and never missed any extent of time. I’m a pretty competitive guy like all of us are. I really felt like I was at a place in my career where I was really strong and was hitting the ball as well as I’ve ever hit it. Sometimes in life it happens that you get knocked down at the knees when you’re feeling the strongest.”
San Diego brought in Nick Novak after Kaeding went down, and he performed admirably for the Bolts, converting 27 of 34 attempts. Still, losing Kaeding was a huge blow. Over his nine-year career, he’s established himself as the NFL’s most accurate kicker of all-time, converting at an 86.5% clip. Extremely precise and reliable, he’s connected on 76 of his last 77 field goal attempts of 40 yards or closer.
Now, nearly a year removed from the injury, Kaeding says he feels 100% and is ready to pick up where he left off.
“My leg feels great,” he said happily. “I’m excited to be back out with my teammates after having missed all of last year. My body feels good and I’m excited to get back into the swing of things. I’ve been hitting the ball well so far in practices. The leg strength is certainly still there, and I look forward to building it up even more this month. I’m kicking the leg back into shape through the volume of reps. I’ve put a lot of work into my body overall, but now it’s about kicking. And I’m happy. I feel the leg strength is right where I left off at.”
But for as much as he still feels the same, he admits things are a bit different as well.
“I do feel a little different, and there’s a little bit of recalibration going on as I get back into it. But that’s the whole point of this month of training camp. I’m getting my timing back with Mike (Scifres) and Mike (Windt) on the snap and hold. So we’re getting back into our rhythm and tempo and it feels good. I’m excited about the month. It’s an important one for me and I’m looking forward to taking the steps along the way.”
Kaeding also admits he’s experiencing butterflies in his stomach like he did when he was a rookie.
“I do have a little bit of nerves. There’s going to be some anxious moments during the first few preseason games, especially when I get back there to kick-off again.
I’m sure there will be some flashbacks to last season, but it’s all part of the process of what this month is all about. It’s why we do the practices and have the games before the season starts up.”
Nonetheless, if there’s one thing Kaeding wants Chargers fans to know, it’s that he’s back and feeling as good as he’s ever felt. And that means trouble for opposing teams.
“At my position you’ve got to be tough and push through these adverse situations,” he said with a look of determination. “Certainly I’ve had one thrown my way this past year. And now I’m here at the last step, and I’m looking forward to getting the ship righted and get going in the right direction. I’m still confident in what I do. I’m a field goal kicker. It’s what I’ve devoted my whole adult life to so far. When I’m out there on the field, I know I can put that ball through those uprights.”
*Saturday marked the team’s first full pads practice of the season.
*Antoine Cason broke up a deep pass, elevating and ripping the ball out of the receiver’s hands.
*Vincent Brown made a diving catch for a 25-yard gain.
*Corey Lynch picked off a ball during third-and-long drills.
*Antonio Gates had a pair of highlight reel touchdowns during redzone drills. The first was a one handed grab in the back of the end zone while on the second score he tipped the ball away from the defender and cradled it in.
*For the second day in a row, Dante Rosario made a nifty catch in the back of the end zone, tiptoeing the line to keep both feet inbounds.
*Robert Meachem elicited cheers from the crowd with a touchdown deep in the end zone.
*Head Coach Norv Turner expressed excitement over the team’s performance, saying they have gotten better each day and are playing extremely crisp football.
*Saturday was also the first open practice of the summer. Over 5,100 fans came out to support the team. Click here for more information on additional open practice dates.
*Fans can now download the team’s 2012 Media Guide by clicking here.