Of the 10 rookies on the Buffalo Bills’ roster, the only one who knows he won’t make his NFL debut Sunday against the New England Patriots is kicker Dustin Hopkins.
Hopkins easily beat out all-time Bills kicker Rian Lindell in training camp. But days before Hopkins should’ve realized his dream of playing in the NFL, he strained the groin on his kicking leg.
The Bills signed former Miami Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter, and coach Doug Marrone already has ruled out Hopkins for Sunday.
“Obviously, I want to be out there,” Hopkins said. “This is something you work toward since you’re a little kid and it becomes more real the older you get. I’m excited for when that opportunity comes up, and I think it’ll come soon.”
Hopkins called his injury, which occurred Monday, “a fluke deal” and said he’d never had a groin injury before.
Although the Bills used a sixth-round draft choice on him, Marrone said Hopkins will not be given the job back simply by being healthy. Carpenter can make this a competition.
“There’s a lot of different scenarios that could come up,” Marrone said. “If Dan goes out there and wins a couple games with a last-second field goal and things like that ... A lot of it’s going to be on Dan performs and how he plays. I think you evaluate that situation.”
Imagine Carpenter kicking a critical field goal to give the Bills a rare victory over the Patriots.
Marrone, a Bronx native, referenced New York Yankees first baseman Wally Pipp when talking about the kicking situation. Pipp’s injury opened the door for a backup named Lou Gehrig, who didn’t miss another game for 14 years.
“Obviously, it’s very unfortunate that we’ve had Dustin pull his groin a little bit,” Marrone said, “but it’s like anything else, and we know through history, the Wally Pipp story. All of a sudden, someone comes in there.
“That’s the one thing about this game, and we talk about it all the time: coachability and availability. Availability’s a big thing.”
Carpenter made the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2009. He has converted 81.9 percent of his field goals, but only 50 percent from 50 yards or longer.
“If I was to say, ‘No, once Dustin gets better we’re going to make a change, and he’s going to kick,’ I think that Dan has a great opportunity now to see how he does,” Marrone said.
There were no surprises on the Bills’ final injury report for Week One.
Most notable was Pro Bowl safety Jairus Byrd, who officially has been designated as doubtful because of his foot problems.
Ruled out along with Hopkins were left guard Doug Legursky (knee) and cornerback Stephon Gilmore (wrist).
Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel (knee) was listed as probable and will play.
Overall, Marrone said he’s pleased with the Bills’ health entering the season.
“Gilmore being hurt, obviously, is something you can’t do anything about,” Marrone said, “but that’s not a good thing for our football team. He’s a really good player.
“Doug added some depth to us, and then with Dustin ... For the most part we’ve come out healthy if you look at the number, but a lot of times it depends on who’s within that number.”
Safety Jim Leonhard, signed this week after the New Orleans Saints cut him, could see significant action Sunday.
Leonhard, a former Bill, played for the Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets when new Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine was on those coaching staffs.
“Jimmy’s a veteran that’s been in this system for quite a long time,” Marrone said. “For us to plug him in there would not be a problem for us.”