By Tim Graham
PITTSFORD -- When the Buffalo Bills used a sixth-round draft pick on a kicker, Rian Lindell hoped the rookie would be a dud.
That would've made the situation easier for Lindell. He could compete against the kid and not feel one bit conflicted.
"When I first met him, I kind of hoped he'd be a knucklehead," Lindell told me this morning. "Maybe that would give me a little bit of an advantage."
Dustin Hopkins, though, turned out to be the genuine article.
"He's good," Lindell said. "He's as-advertised. He's a good kid, a hard worker. He's going to be good."
The Bills released Lindell, the most accurate kicker in club history. He was Buffalo's longest-tenured player, entering his 14th NFL season and 11th with the team.
His leg has lost power in recent years. The Bills drafted kickoff specialist John Potter last year, but eventually cut him. Former coach Chan Gailey didn't trust Lindell to try field goals longer than 50 yards.
The team's doubts about Lindell's leg resurfaced when they drafted Hopkins.
In practice, the difference in leg strength was obvious. Hopkins was far superior.
Hopkins kicked in the first half of each preseason game. He was perfect on four field-goal attempts, making kicks from 24 and 23 yards in the opener against the Indianapolis Colts and from 39 and 35 yards Friday night against the Minnesota Vikings.
Lindell kicked a 30-yard field goal in Indianapolis but didn't try any Friday night.
Lindell declared the competition was fair. He blamed only himself.
"I just didn't kick like I wanted to kick," Lindell said. "I should have kicked better. I think I'm better than I've showed. I just didn't hit as clean a ball as I feel I could have. That's a little frustrating."
Lindell told me he's not retiring, that he'll try to hook on with another team this preseason.
"I'll keep trudging along and hopefully go somewhere and get a look," Lindell said. "I'll keep searching for that perfect step, that holy grail of hitting the ball squarely down my line whenever I want. That's the quest.
"I'll just have to do it in another uniform."
But Lindell also declared he'll be a Bills fan forever. He thanked the team for being loyal and signing him three times.
"I appreciate all the fans that gave me the benefit of the doubt," Lindell said. "There are so many that come up to you and say, 'Go Bills,' through thick or thin. I suppose it's easy in a way to be negative with no playoffs or whatever, but there's a lot of people out there that have always been positive toward me.
"So, 'Go Bills.' It's nice to have a team to root for. I'm all in, man. I love that franchise."
taggedDustin Hopkins | Rian Lindell