METAIRIE, La. — Garrett Hartley is used to the questions.
He has seen it before, in 2010, in fact.
After starting that year 4-for-7, he was benched in Week 4, giving way for John Carney to come back.
Then in his third year, he finished the season missing only two more kicks.
Now, nine games into Hartley’s sixth season, he has started slowly once again, going 16 of 22, missing twice from inside 40 yards already.
And he’s not backing down.
“I know that my career has been a roller-coaster ride,” Hartley said Wednesday. “By now, going into my sixth year, it’s hey, this is what the deal is, this is how I go about and obviously just going to put myself in position to go out there and execute come Sundays. That’s all I can do.”
Hartley’s career has, in fact, been all over the place.
He signed with the Saints in 2008 as a free agent and proceeded to hit his first 16 kicks.
A suspension for using Adderall held him out of half of the 2009 season and, in his first game, he kicked a game-winning field goal in overtime against Washington.
But he missed a game-winning kick against Tampa Bay in Week 15 before proceeding to hit the game-winner against Minnesota in the NFC championship game. He finished the postseason with a clutch 3-for-3 performance in the Super Bowl.
Then 2010 happened and the aforementioned rough start that brought in Carney. Again, Hartley responded.
“Garrett has done it in so many big spots,” Payton said. “I've got a ton of confidence in his ability, and I'm glad we did back in '09. And I think the same thing applies this year."
Still, that didn’t stop the Saints from bringing in five kickers Tuesday, trying them out and taking notes so they can be prepared to make a switch if they need to.
Shayne Graham, Neil Rackers, Derek Dimke, John Potter and Brandon McManus all worked out for New Orleans, according to multiple media reports.
“It’s standard protocol just as any other position would be,” he said. “This has nothing to do about lighting a fire or throwing gasoline or whatever. This is about what they feel they need to do and by all means, that’s OK. I know what I need to do as well and this is still my job.”
For now, the job is, in fact, still Hartley’s and will remain so as long as he gets back on track.
“My leg feels great,” Hartley said. “I’m striking a clean ball. Bouncing back, even after a last game like that, when obviously I didn’t strike the ball well and I know why. It’s a simple fix. Back to work and get ready for Sunday.”
More importantly for Hartley is that, in spite of bringing in those kickers, Payton still says, at least publicly, he has confidence in his kicker
“You hate to go into a critical game and not know with a player,” Payton said. “And I think, fortunately for us, we've been in some of those big games and had a chance to evaluate him in those moments. And he's been outstanding."