As reporters herded around his locker, Dan Carpenter tried to beat everyone to the punch.
“Yes, I cut my hair,” the Bills kicker said. “No, it has nothing to do with football.”
It sure would make sense for Carpenter to try something, anything, to get back on track. He has missed extra points in back-to-back games, in addition to a hitting the left upright on a 50-yard field goal attempt in Sunday’s 30-21 win over Houston. After six years, Carpenter finally cut his golden locks and his stylist donated it to charity. He vows he’s the least superstitious guy in the locker room and that the only reason he’s had long hair to begin with was that his wife liked it.
However you slice it, the hair is gone and Carpenter must get back on track.
Both coach Rex Ryan and General Manager Doug Whaley have publicly thrown their support behind Carpenter. Buffalo won’t be releasing the eight-year veteran this week. But with playoff hopes hanging in the balance now every week, it’ll need their kicker to snap out of it.
On Tuesday, Carpenter sounded clearly frustrated.
“Why would I not be frustrated?” Carpenter said at one point. “I mean, they’re not going through those yellow things. That’s what I’m here to do. I felt like I’ve been kicking the ball really good and it’s not showing up on Sunday. I think that’s why I’m frustrated.”
When one person asked for him to take his hat off for the cameras, he did briefly, put it back on and said “I’m not a model. … If there are any serious questions, I’ll answer them.”
Carpenter has not watched film yet so he didn’t have any details on what went wrong. His recent misses aren’t shanks by any means – he’s hitting the uprights – and the laces weren’t out on his missed extra point.
The NFL moving the extra point back to 15-yard line for a 33-yard kick has affected him. Carpenter is now 28 of 32 on the season in addition to 16 of 20 on his field goals.
“They wanted us to miss,” Carpenter said. “Frankly, that’s what they wanted. They’re getting it. And now everybody wonders why. … They wanted people to not go to the bathroom during the extra point. People are still saying they’re going to the bathroom during the extra point. Sometimes, they come back and the point’s not there.”
Told that Ryan and Whaley offered support, Carpenter asked what they said and then downplayed anything he’s done in the past.
He hit 91.7 percent of his kicks in 2013 and then 89.5 percent in 2014 with the Bills. Ryan has referenced Carpenter’s experience in the colder weather. But, to the kicker, none of that matters right now.
“Frankly, track record doesn’t really mean anything. It doesn’t,” Carpenter said. “What I did last week doesn’t mean anything with what I’m going to do next week or the week after or the week after that. So frankly, I just have to make kicks. That’s why I’m here. That’s my job. I’m going to do the best I can every week and that’s all I can do.
“It’s just a bunch of numbers that say what you’ve done in the past. It doesn’t mean anything with what you’re going to do in the future. I’ll just have to keep working to get back to being the guy that they think I am.”
Is it mental? Physical? Carpenter does not believe it’s either. Misses can get into a kicker’s head, of course. But he points to the strong weeks of practice.
“I don’t feel like I’ve been hitting the ball bad,” he said. “My last three misses have went off uprights so I’m not hitting the ball terrible.
“They’re just not going in.”