METAIRIE, La. — Garrett Hartley's job from when he first signed with the Saints in 2008 until he leaves the NFL will be to do one thing and that’s score points by making kicks, however difficult the circumstance may be.
So don’t think for a second, he says, that he's resting on everything he has accomplished in five seasons with New Orleans just because New Orleans doesn't have another kicker on the roster.
Because he’s not. Because he realizes he’s one stretch of missed kicks from being booted to the curb.
“I think what a lot of people might not see is just because I might be the only one on the roster, there are a lot of people vying for an opportunity to have a position in this league,” Hartley said this week. “Regardless of whether I’m the only one in camp or competing against someone else, it’s always a competition.”
The Saints came to camp with two kickers this year, the other Jose Maltos. But Hartley was consistent enough, and Maltos erratic enough, for Payton to decide early that the incumbent was going to stick around
That fits with how Hartley feels about himself right now.
“Just coming in this year, my body feels great, the ball-striking is where I want it right now and it’s only going to continue to get better,” he said.
The quiet 5-foot-8 27-year-old does everything he can to stay ahead of his competitors.
That means that though he knows he has made 84.5 percent of the field goals he has kicked in his career, including going 5 of 7 from beyond 50 yards, there are still things he can do to make himself better.
“It’s just overall technical things as far as tempo coming into the ball, how’s my heel position at impact and a lot of stuff that you have to do a lot of drill work with,” Hartley said.
So far, so good.
Hartley is 5-for-5 this preseason, hitting field goals of 24, 28, 30, 31 and 53 yards.
“He’s been solid,” coach Sean Payton said. “I thought the other night he was very good. The first field goal that he hit, it was good to see. He’s been very consistent.”
Hartley went 18 of 22 in 2012 a season after going on the injured reserve with a hip injury. For his career, his most troubles have come inside of 39 yards, where he’s 41 of 48. He knows it’s something he has to work on, but he’s been in the league long enough to realize getting better only happens with experience.
“When you get into that game scenario, the only thing that really prepares you for that is your prior history of being suited up between the white lines,” Hartley said. “But that’s definitely a point of emphasis of mine – the makeable field goals have to be made.”