Uncertainty At Kicker Arises Once Again

Sam Ficken is questionable for Sunday's opener against Arizona with a groin injury; veteran Michael Badgley has been added to the practice squad.
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NASHVILLE – So much for the notion that the Tennessee Titans could enter the 2021 NFL season with any sort of certainty about their kicker.

Sam Ficken, who won the job in training camp, was added to the injury report Friday and listed as questionable for Sunday’s game against the Arizona Cardinals at Nissan Stadium with a right groin issue. Ficken is a right-legged kicker.

As a result, Tennessee signed veteran Michael Badgley to the practice squad. To make room for Badgley, tackle Christian DiLauro was released.

Badgley spent all or parts of the last three seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers. In 34 games, he made 52 of 65 field goal attempts (80 percent) and 82 of 86 PATs (95.3 percent). His career-long was a 59-yard field goal (a Chargers record) on Dec. 9, 2018 against Cincinnati.

The Chargers released Badgley on Aug. 31 and elected to go with journeyman Tristan Vizcaino as their kicker.

The Titans added Ficken via waivers on Aug. 1 after the New York Jets released him. Now in his fifth NFL season, he has played 28 games for the Jets and Los Angeles Rams and has made 72.9 percent of his field goal attempts.

He was 4-for-4 on field goal attempts and 9-for-9 on PATs in the preseason. One of his kicks was a 58-yard field goal against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which helped convince coaches to give him the job.

“When he came open, we were like, ‘Hey, this is another guy we can bring in to compete,” special teams coordinator Craig Aukerman said this week. “Obviously, Sam’s done a great job and he’s really separated himself. And we feel really comfortable with him – and confident.”

Now, they are not so sure he will be available.

The situation is reminiscent of 2019, when Ryan Succop was placed on injured reserve days before the season-opener. Tennessee eventually used four placekickers that season, including Succop, and they combined to make eight of 18 field goal attempts. The first was Cairo Santos, who was signed four days before the opener.

In 2020, the Titans signed veteran kicker Stephen Gostkowski 11 days before their opener (a relative eternity) against the Denver Broncos and in the wake of an injury that limited him to four games the previous season. Gostkowski missed four kicks (three field goals, one PAT) against the Broncos but made the game-winner with 17 seconds to play. By season’s end, he had missed a career-high eight field goal attempts and set a career-low success rate of 69.2 percent.

“It was a tremendous opportunity here,” Ficken said this week. “I felt like I did a good job getting acclimated and making the most of the opportunities I got.”

It remains to be seen whether he will get a chance to kick on Sunday.