METAIRIE, La. ― The general rule regarding place kickers is that they’re a squirrely bunch. They’re players who are mentally structured differently than the rest of their teammates.
So when the Saints moved a picture blown up to poster size of the Redskins’ Shaun Suisham missing a possible game-winning kick from its original position inside the Saints’ indoor training facility, the assessment was that Garrett Hartley requested the change.
In fact, the reasoning was completely different.
“I didn’t ask them to but they were worried I might have a hiccup here and there and might take out Suisham kicking,” Hartley said.
The reality is, it’s not very likely that Hartley would have missed the uprights badly enough to smash through the picture of Suisham.
Hartley became a folk hero in New Orleans by putting the Saints into the Super Bowl with a 40-yard field goal in overtime against Minnesota in the NFC championship game. He followed that by becoming the first player in NFL history to kick three field goals of 40-or-more yards in a Super Bowl.
And those kicks have translated into more recognition in places where he used to be able to fly under the radar incognito.
“I think I’ll admit that going places is a little different now as far as some people now recognizing me,” Hartley said. “At the same time, it doesn’t bother me if they don’t. I really just like walking in somewhere and having fun, sitting down and enjoying it.
“If people come up to me, they come up to me. It really humbles me because I guess it’s better than them casting stones at me.”
Now that training camp is midway through its first week, it’s time for Hartley to focus again on football.
The third-year kicker out of Oklahoma came to the Saints in 2008 after going undrafted and knows that yesterday is just a fleeting memory. He knows he’s in a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league.
“I really believe that kick is what it was,” Hartley said of his game-winner against the Vikings. “You’re only as good as your last kick in this league and I know this. I just prepare myself just like I did from day one. Go out there with an I don’t have anything to lose mindset. Go out there and be the best I can and perform on game days.”
Hartley steels himself against outside threats by realizing that there are outside threats. Just because there isn’t another kicker in camp doesn’t allow Hartley to think he can come out and miss a few kicks.
“There’s only 32 teams and 32 positions available as being a kicker,” Hartley said. “It’s just knowing if someone else isn’t here doesn’t mean there’s not someone else out there on a practice field somewhere getting better.
“That’s one way I keep myself motivated and going in there watching film and critiquing the last reps of my technique and return the next day with an itinerary of what I need to get better at.”