Not much seems to bother Dan Carpenter.
For a man whose job is to kick a football inside Ralph Wilson Stadium, that’s a pretty good trait to have.
Carpenter got his first “real” experience as the Buffalo Bills’ kicker in dealing with the Western New York weather Sunday against the New York Jets. Like he has almost all season, he handled the challenge of a swirling wind splendidly by going a perfect 3 for 3 on field goals during a 37-14 victory.
“He’s a real pro. Nothing really gets to him, which is great as a kicker,” said long snapper Garrison Sanborn. “He’s got a great mindset — ‘I’m just going to go out there and kick it.’ He’s real relaxed, and he’s very talented.”
Carpenter has connected on 22 of 24 field goals, good for a 91.7 percent conversion rate that’s tied for 10th best in the NFL. His 22 made field goals are tied for fourth most in the league, and his 88 points ranks him sixth.
Those stats alone would make him one of the Bills’ best free-agent signings, but they’re all the more impressive considering he was signed just five days before the season opener. Rookie Dustin Hopkins was slated to be Buffalo’s kicker, but suffered a groin injury days that eventually landed him on injured reserve.
“It was a great acquisition. I give credit to our pro scouting department for that,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said. “I think he’s been outstanding.”
Carpenter spent the first five years of his career with the Miami Dolphins, connecting on 81.9 percent of his field goals. He finished 2012 by making 16 of his last 17 attempts.
But the nature of kicking in the NFL is fickle.
The Dolphins released Carpenter during training camp after selecting Caleb Sturgis in the fifth round of April’s NFL Draft (Sturgis, by the way, is converting just 77.3 percent of his field goals this year).
Carpenter was pressed Monday on why the Dolphins went in the direction they did.
“You could call the Dolphins if you want to,” he said. “They have the answer, I don’t. I don’t know. I don’t really care. It’s over. … It seems like years ago now. I mean, it’s nothing I can worry about. I’m not going to stay awake at night trying to figure it out, either.”
After being released by the Dolphins, Carpenter had four-day stints with both the Arizona Cardinals and the Jets during the preseason before landing in Buffalo.
“I’ve always known I can kick the ball,” he said, “so it wasn’t any thought where it was like, ‘oh, I’m done. I can’t kick the football any more.’ But I mean, it’s nice to be able to come out and do well.”
Carpenter missed his first field-goal try as a Bill in Week Two against Carolina, then made 15 straight before missing a 50-yarder wide right against New Orleans in Week Eight.
“Obviously I’d really like to have made the one in the dome,” Carpenter said. “That one upsets me.”
That seems to be the only thing that can get under the skin of the 27-year-old from Omaha, Neb. Everything about Carpenter, including his shoulder-length hair, gives off a relaxed, confident vibe.
“This is what I would expect of myself,” he said. “I mean, it’s always nice to kick well. The best part about it is just to help your team do well and get some wins.”
Carpenter hit a 31-yard field goal against the Dolphins with 36 seconds left to give the Bills the go-ahead points in a 23-21 win in Week Seven.
On Sunday, he hit field goals from 40, 42 and 43 yards in sustained winds of 15-20 mph, with gusts up to 30 mph.
“To start the game, it was pretty consistent,” he said. “As the game went on, it got a little trickier as far as gusts.
“I swear I went out for one of the field goals and both the flags were blowing straight up on the goal post, and then I walked back my steps and looked up again and they were both blowing to the side.”
Carpenter, though, was not unnerved.
“There’s nothing you can do about it. You can try to pause in the back and wait it out for a few seconds and see if it’ll die down, but other than that, you don’t really have a chance,” he said.
The Bills have their specialists – Carpenter and punter Brian Moorman – practice in the Ralph far more often than the team does, Marrone said.
“Every stadium is a little different, but wind is wind. You kick your balls in warmups and find out if you need to play the wind more or less,” Carpenter said. “Experience is a good thing, but every day is different, no matter if you play in the same place or not.”
Hopkins will be back in 2014 to attempt to reclaim the job, but Carpenter has made a push to stick around.
“He just goes out there and stays steady,” Sanborn said. “It’s been real impressive to watch and fun to be a part of it.”