Nate Kaeding showed up for work Monday intending to start preparing for San Diego’s game at Cleveland on Sunday.
Instead, he found out that his Chargers career was effectively over.
Kaeding, the most accurate kicker in NFL history, was placed on injured reserve Monday and will be released when he’s healthy.
Kaeding kicked in the first three games before injuring his groin on Sept. 28, two days before a game at Kansas City. That forced the Chargers to sign Nick Novak and they had carried both kickers on the active roster since then.
”I had hoped to get back on the field this week or next and was on pace to do it,” Kaeding told The Associated Press. ”I was surprised that was their decision, but I don’t take part in any of those conversations. It’s certainly disappointing. It’s not the ending I had envisioned for myself here. But I’m going to take this week to get healthy and throw my name in the hat for employment elsewhere.”
Kaeding, in his ninth NFL season, said he’ll work out with former Chargers kicker John Carney, who lives in northern San Diego County.
Novak was signed by the Chargers last year after Kaeding blew out his left knee trying to make a tackle on the season-opening kickoff.
”Coming off that ACL debacle, it definitely makes you appreciate taking it one year at a time,” Kaeding said. ”I came back and honestly, in the spring and summer, felt like I was as healthy and strong as I’ve ever been. I had as much range and distance, if not more, on kickoffs.”
Kaeding has made 180 of 207 field goal attempts in the regular season, or 87 percent.
However, he’s best known in San Diego for missing three field goals in a 17-14 home playoff loss to the New York Jets in January 2010, San Diego’s last postseason appearance. He also was wide right on a 40-yard attempt in overtime that would have beaten the Jets in a playoff game following the 2004 season. The Jets moved down the field and won it 20-17 on Doug Brien’s 27-yarder.
Kaeding was just 8 of 15 (53.3 percent) in eight playoff games.
”I always prided myself on working deliberately and purposely on my craft,” Kaeding said. ”I felt I made a lot of improvement, outside of a couple of lousy kicks in the playoffs. There are some performances I’d like to have back, but I’m pretty proud of what I was able to do. I’m more proud of the way I conducted myself and the work I put into it.”
Kaeding’s roster spot went to wide receiver Danario Alexander, who signed a one-year deal.
”We had to make a decision,” coach Norv Turner said. ”We were going a man short and we had the chance to add a receiver. Nate is going to continue his rehab. He’s been a great player for us. I think the world of Nate. It is a difficult decision but it’s just something we had to do at this point.”
Kaeding made all seven field goal attempts this season.
Novak has missed once in six tries.
”I just want to acknowledge how well Nate did,” Novak said. ”He worked his tail off to get back and had a great training camp. It was unfortunate his groin got a little beat up this year. For me, I’ve been here four weeks now. I didn’t know how long I was going to be here, but I approached every week like I was the guy. I feel bad for Nate.”