INDIANAPOLIS — Lucas Havrisik had just left Sunday Service when the call came in. Chase McLaughlin was in Kansas City auditioning with the Chiefs when the news broke.
For each player, the reaction was the same when approached by the Indianapolis Colts to attend a tryout to become the team’s next kicker. They jumped at the chance to participate in Tuesday morning training.
But, in the end, the Colts opted for an unconventional solution that, arguably, isn’t an answer at all. Havrisik and McLaughlin were signed to the Colts’ practice squad on Tuesday after the team waived Rodrigo Blankenship, who missed a game-winning field goal attempt Sunday at Houston. The Colts settled for a 20-20 tie with the Texans after the miss with 2 minutes left in overtime.
What we are left with is a sub-optimal situation. The Colts do have an in-season kicking competition. Indianapolis is expected to promote one of the new kickers to the active roster to handle punting duties in Sunday’s road game against the Jacksonville Jaguars (1 p.m. ET, CBS).
If you’re wondering why the Colts are in this difficult position, it’s largely a problem of their own making. Somehow, a team notorious for flipping every stone in search of gems to fill the bottom of their roster managed to mess up one of the team’s most important positions.
The Colts may have avoided this problem by bringing in better competition for Blankenship during training camp, or perhaps by drafting a kicker. The Cincinnati Bengals drafted Evan McPherson in the fifth round last year and he helped the Bengals reach the Super Bowl. The Colts haven’t drafted a kicker since Dave Rayner in 2005.
The Colts’ doubts about Blankenship were apparent long ago when he remained on injured reserve last season, even after recovering from a season-opening hip injury. The Colts instead stuck with Michael Badgley for the remainder of the season. And when the team held an off-season competition for Blankenship, it was Jake Verity – a player who had never converted a regular-season kick and lost the position battle after a tough month in camp. coaching.
Now, after the Colts’ worst fears about Blankenship were realized in the very first game of the season, they face the prospect of spending the foreseeable future with an unstable kicking situation. The reluctance to commit to either Havrisik or McLaughlin suggests the team isn’t sure either is a solution throughout the season.
“It’s a situation entirely up to the front office,” McLaughlin said. “Whatever is best for the organization is what they’re going to do. I’ll just take it like I’m the guy.
Said Havrisik: “You can’t be twisted into the kicker psyche everyone is talking about. But it is difficult, because you want to be perfect, but you might have difficulties here and there. It’s all in your head. You just have to stay confident up there. And when you struggle, bouncing back is everything.
For the kickers, this latest twist in their respective paths was met with a shrug. Companion kickers are quite accustomed to the challenges that come with the nomadic lifestyle.
McLaughlin said he spent time on 10 different teams during his four years. This is actually his second stint with the Colts after playing for Indianapolis for part of the 2019 season.
“It’s part of the job,” said McLaughlin, who has converted 75.5% of his attempts in his career. “Hopefully I can change that and make it a home.”
Havrisik attended the Colts’ rookie minicamp in May, but the invitation to training camp he thought was imminent never materialized. He recently moved from his native Riverside, California to Tucson, Arizona where he played at the University of Arizona. His original plan: to find a job—money was tight—to make ends meet while working on his kicks on campus.
The rookie finished his Arizona career with a shaky 64.2% accuracy rating on field goals. On the other hand, he connected twice on field goals for 57 yards, setting a school record.
Meanwhile, the Colts are hoping the solution to their problem currently lies in their locker room. If not, look for the kicking situation to be a recurring storyline in this season of high hopes.
“Sometimes in this business you just need to change what you think is best,” coach Frank Reich said. “It was a tough decision, but we felt we had to make it.”
The Colts can only hope this will be the last kicking change they are forced to make.