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Long field goal some vindication for Rian Lindell

By Jay Skurski

TAMPA, Fla. -- Buccaneers kicker Rian Lindell had a grand time facing his old team Sunday.

Lindell went 2 for 2 on field goals, including a 53-yarder in the second quarter that had plenty of leg to spare.

"That was nice," he said after the game. "At the time, you just want to hit a good ball, and I don't care what the other jersey looks like or who we're playing. But yeah, kind of looking back, taking it all in a little bit, it is nice. It’s nice to hit a long one."

The Bills, of course, released Lindell during training camp in part because they thought rookie Dustin Hopkins would be better at those long field goals. Lindell left the team after 10 seasons with 980 points -- just 31 short of Stevie Christie’s franchise record of 1,011.

"It was odd trying to warm up because the training staff and equipment guys, weight room guys, those are the guys I've been around with for however many years," Lindell said. "It's great to see all of them. … It’s nice to get a win. I thought I kicked well all day. Obviously during the game is when it counts, but even pregame, it's nice to hit a clean ball, you know what I mean? It's nice that the day cooperated."

Hopkins never did end up replacing Lindell after suffering a groin injury prior to the season opener and landing on injured reserve. Veteran Dan Carpenter was signed to take his place and has had a solid season. Carpenter scored the Bills’ only points Sunday on field goals of 40 and 46 yards. He now has 101 points on the season, the 24th time in franchise history a player has surpassed the century mark.

Second-quarter analysis: From bad to worse

By Jay Skurski

TAMPA, Fla. -- Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel's season-long struggles on the road are continuing today in Raymond James Stadium.

Manuel threw a pair of interceptions in the second quarter, and the Buffalo offense is mustering very little against the Buccaneers, who lead 24-3 at halftime.

Buffalo turned the ball over three times in the second quarter -- including two interceptions from Manuel. The first was a good throw to Stevie Johnson that bounced off the receiver's hands, while the second was an absolute disaster of a throw intended for T.J. Graham.

Manuel is a brutal 6 of 15 for 54 yards and those two interceptions for a passer rating of 10.8. 

Glennon not much better: It hasn't been a great day for rookie quarterback Mike Glennon on the other side, either. Glennon went 8 of 20 in the first half, also throwing two interceptions. Glennon, however, has two touchdown passes, the second of which went to tight end Timothy Wright and gave the Bucs their 24-3 lead.

It's good: Buccaneers kicker Rian Lindell buried a 53-yard field goal in the second quarter. That had to fel good for the former Bills kicker, who last season was not counted on for 50-plus yard field-goal tries by the team's former coaching staff.

Tough call: Bills safety Jairus Byrd was hit with a personal foul penalty for roughing the passer late in the second quarter. Byrd came in on a blitz and tackled quarterback Mike Glennon. Officials ruled that Byrd hit Glennon below the knees.

No guarantees for Dustin Hopkins to remain Bills kicker

By Tim Graham

Of the 10 rookies on the Buffalo Bills' roster, the only one who knows he won't make his NFL debut Sunday against the New England Patriots is kicker Dustin Hopkins.

Hopkins easily beat out all-time Bills kicker Rian Lindell in training camp. But days before Hopkins should've realized his dream of playing in the NFL, he strained the groin on his kicking leg.

The Bills signed former Miami Dolphins kicker Dan Carpenter, and coach Doug Marrone already has ruled out Hopkins for Sunday.

"Obviously, I want to be out there," Hopkins said. "This is something you work toward since you're a little kid, and it becomes more real and more real the older you get. I'm excited for when that opportunity comes up, and I think it'll come soon."

Continue reading "No guarantees for Dustin Hopkins to remain Bills kicker" »

Vagabond kicker Dan Carpenter will handle job for Bills on Sunday

By Tim Graham

Over the past three weeks, Dan Carpenter has worn four NFL uniforms and been cut three times.

Mr. Have Tee Will Travel will be the Buffalo Bills' kicker Sunday against the New England Patriots.

With rookie kicker Dustin Hopkins unable to practice because of a right groin strain, Bills coach Doug Marrone announced this afternoon Carpenter will handle the season opener.

The only time the Bills beat the Patriots over their past 19 meetings, a last-second Rian Lindell field goal won it.

Carpenter has spent his five seasons with the Miami Dolphins, making the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2009. He has converted 81.9 percent of his field goals, but only 50 percent from 50 yards or longer.

The Dolphins cut him three weeks ago. He signed with the Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets but couldn't stick with either club. Carpenter was on his way to a tryout with the Cleveland Browns when the Bills signed him this week.

Report: Bills to sign Dan Carpenter after K Dustin Hopkins injured

By Jay Skurski

Rookie kicker Dustin Hopkins suffered a groin injury today in practice, according to a report from ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Schefter first reported the Bills are on the verge of signing veteran kicker Dan Carpenter.

He then followed that up a few minutes later with the news that Hopkins, a rookie sixth-round draft pick out of Florida State, suffered a groin injury during today's practice.

Bills coach Doug Marrone made no mention of Hopkins being injured during his news conference following today's practice. 

Carpenter, 27, has spent the first five years of his career with the Miami Dolphins. He is 127 of 155 (81.9 percent) on field goals, with a career long of 60 yards. He's made 154 of 155 career extra-point attempts.

Carpenter went 22 of 27 on field goals for the Dolphins in 2012. He was beat out for Miami's kicking job during training camp by rookie Caleb Sturgis. Since then, Carpenter has had four-day stints with the Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets.

Hopkins beat out veteran Rian Lindell for the Bills' kicking job during training camp. Hopkins went 6 for 6 on field goals in the preseason, but did not have any attempts from 40 yards or longer. Only four of Hopkins' 14 kickoffs during the preseason went for touchbacks. He also had one kickoff go out of bounds.

Carpenter, meanwhile, has 97 touchbacks on 357 career kickoffs.

Carpenter would put the Bills at the 53-man roster limit.

What to watch for in today's Buffalo at Washington exhibition

By Tim Graham

Here is a handful of areas I'll be looking at this afternoon, when the Buffalo Bills play Washington at FedEx Field:

Kevin Kolb can't win the job, but he can lose it. Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel was the frontrunner before a knee injury cropped up. Kolb is coming off a 55.9 passer rating in his preseason debut against the Minnesota Vikings. Even if he's sensational today, he won't capture anyone's imagination like Manuel has. But if Kolb struggles, then it's Manuel's job as soon as the rookie is healthy enough to play.

Several notable injured players could see action. The Bills could have their full complement of receivers, with Stevie Johnson, T.J. Graham and Brad Smith on the field. All have missed time with hamstring injuries. Johnson has yet to dress. Pass-rusher Mario Williams (foot), middle linebacker Kiko Alonso (shoulder) and cornerbacks Leodis McKelvin (groin) and Justin Rogers (hamstring) also are expected to play.

Can cornerbacks not named Stephon Gilmore provide reassurance? The sight of Gilmore's right foot being examined by athletic trainer Bud Carpenter on Tuesday night was unsettling for any Bills fan in attendance at Growney Stadium. The other cornerbacks have been erratic at best. Injuries have made the depth chart look more disconcerting.

Receivers, receivers, receivers. As mentioned already, Johnson will be back. But it would be more educational if he didn't play much. We know what he can do. The Bills will have some difficult decisions to make at receiver, and we'd learn a lot more if players such as Chris Hogan, Marcus Easley and Da'Rick Rogers got as many targets as possible.

Special-teamers aren't safe yet. The Bills recently awarded their kicking jobs by cutting kicker Rian Lindell and punter Brian Stahovich. Rookie kicker Dustin Hopkins hasn't lined up for a field goal longer than 39 yards in a preseason game yet. Powell shanked an ugly punt last week against the Vikings. They need to be consistently good to maintain Doug Marrone's trust.

Rian Lindell thanks Bills fans with an open letter

By Tim Graham

Rian Lindell is wearing a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform now, but he has distributed an open letter to thank Buffalo Bills fans for the past decade of support. The Bills released Lindell on Monday morning.

Bills Nation:

Thank you, Bills fans, for all the support I've received over the years and over the last few days. I always tried to remember the people I represented every time I put the Bills uniform on. Over the years, I've truly enjoyed hearing the many stories Bills fans had to share from Sundays at the Ralph.

I'll never forget the feeling of driving into the parking lot on gameday and seeing the excitement of fans young or old, warm or cold, going through their pregame routines in anticipation of a Bills victory. What I came to understand over the years was the genuine passion Western New York and Bills nation has for their Bills, and I can't tell you how appreciative I am to have been a part of it for a decade.

I also want to thank Mr. Wilson and each and every person in the organization for 10 great years together. You made my family and I feel like we were truly a part of your family, and we were proud to "circle the wagons" with you.

Thank you, Buffalo, and while I begin a new and exciting chapter of my career, I look forward to our paths crossing again down the road.

Rian Lindell

Audio: Graham & Skurski discuss Bills' decision to cut Rian Lindell

Buffalo News reporters Tim Graham and Jay Skurski talk about Rian Lindell's career with the Bills and the team's choice to move forward with rookie Dustin Hopkins:

Rian Lindell admits better kicker won Bills competition

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."

Continue reading "Rian Lindell admits better kicker won Bills competition" »

Bills end kicker competition by cutting incumbent Rian Lindell

By Tim Graham

PITTSFORD -- The Buffalo Bills have released the player who had been with them longer than anyone else.

The Bills this morning announced they've cut kicker Rian Lindell. The move ends one of the summer's biggest competitions. The Bills drafted kicker Dustin Hopkins in the sixth round, and the rookie's livelier leg was evident in practice.

Lindell was entering his 14th NFL season and 11th with the Bills. He holds franchise records with an 83.3 career field-goal percentage, a 92.0 field-goal percentage in 2006, 18 consecutive successful field goals in 2007 and 225 consecutive extra points.

Continue reading "Bills end kicker competition by cutting incumbent Rian Lindell" »

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |