Dan Carpenter steered clear this week of even the remotest expression of injured feelings over his departure from the Miami Dolphins this summer.
Still, you’ve got to believe Carpenter would love to kick the winning field goal Sunday when the Bills visit South Florida to face their AFC East rivals.
Carpenter spent five mostly excellent seasons with Miami. He made two Pro Bowls. But the Dolphins found somebody younger, stronger, cheaper and – they think – better in April’s NFL draft. Welcome to the cold, cruel, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately NFL.
The 27-year-old Carpenter was released in mid-August and bounced from the Arizona Cardinals to the New York Jets to the Bills, who picked him up when their own rookie, Dustin Hopkins, pulled a groin muscle.
Carpenter’s availability has turned into a lucky break for Buffalo. He has made 12 straight field goals, including three of 50-or-more yards. His 55-yarder against Carolina was essential to the Bills’ 24-23 win. His three short field goals were the deciding points in the 23-20 win over Baltimore.
“Obviously it’s nice to get off to a really good start, and I plan on keeping it going,” Carpenter said.
“I think he’s done an outstanding job in a rough situation,” said Bills special teams coach Danny Crossman. “He hadn’t been here, he’s working with new guys, and he had an interesting end of training camp, being with several teams for a very short period of time. He has come here and just been a true pro.”
Carpenter has made 82.7 percent of his attempts for his career, which ranks 12th among active kickers with more than two years’ experience.
However, he had some ill-timed misses early last season. He missed a 48-yard try that would have won an overtime game against the Jets.
He missed from 51 the next week in what wound up being a three-point loss to Arizona. Neither miss was exactly a chip shot. He was just 4 of his last 9 from 50-plus yards entering this season.
Carpenter’s touchback rate on kickoffs of 45 percent last year ranked right in the middle of the league.
So far this season, the Bills’ touchback rate of 42 percent is 29th in the league.
Miami decided it wanted a stronger-legged kicker and drafted Caleb Sturgis in the fifth round.
Just like in Buffalo, where Hopkins was drafted to compete with veteran Rian Lindell, it was apparent in Miami the Dolphins were determined to go with the rookie.
“They made the decision,” Carpenter said. “I got just as many kicks in training camp as he did, and they stuck with him. I don’t have any hard feelings. I’m just moving forward now.”
Regarding last season, in which he was 22 of 27 on field goals, Carpenter says: “Obviously last year I didn’t start real well in Miami, my percentage wasn’t that great. But a lot of people kind of forget I ended the year 16 for 17. It’s not like I was broken.”
Carpenter has proved as much with the Bills.
“He gets let go in Miami,” Crossman said. “He’s in Arizona briefly, with the Jets briefly. And a lot of people say what’s wrong? There’s gotta be something. But we haven’t seen it. We couldn’t be happier with him.”
Carpenter’s spot on the Bills’ roster was secured when Hopkins was placed on injured reserve due to the groin injury.
It has been a memorable start to the season for Carpenter off the field, too. His wife, Kaela, recently gave birth to their first child, a son named Colby.
“The boy and mom are doing great,” he said.
Ditto for dad.