Saints' Hartley: It's not my first rodeo

METAIRIE, La. – New Orleans Saints kicker Garrett Hartley admitted Wednesday, “I know that my career has been a roller-coaster ride.” However, he insisted that he is not going through a “slump” and isn't dealing with any confidence issues after missing four of his past six field-goal attempts.

Hartley also said he won’t overreact to the fact the Saints brought in a group of five kickers earlier this week to refresh their list of potential backups in case Hartley’s struggles continue.

“This is my sixth year now. It’s not my first rodeo. It’s not my first time down this path,” said Hartley, a postseason hero in the Saints’ Super Bowl season, who has also dealt with a benching, a suspension and a season-long injury during his career. “It’s going to work every day. Keep doing what I’ve been doing. My leg feels great. I’m striking a clean ball. Bouncing back, even after a game like [last Sunday’s, when he missed from 37 yards], 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.”

The group of kickers the Saints brought in this week included veterans Neil Rackers and Shayne Graham. But Hartley said he didn’t see that as the team trying to “light a fire” under him.

“No. No. It’s standard protocol, just as any other position would be,” Hartley said. “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. ...

“I know that my career has been a roller-coaster ride. By now, going into my sixth year, it’s, ‘Hey, this is what the deal is, this is how I go about it.’ And obviously I’m just going to put myself in position to go out there and execute come Sundays. That’s all I can do.”

Hartley has made 16 of 22 field-goal attempts this season. His funk started when he missed three consecutive kicks during Weeks 8 and 9. But he had appeared to right the ship when he nailed a career-long 55-yarder and a 43-yarder in the second half of that Week 9 game, a 26-20 loss at the New York Jets.

Coach Sean Payton insisted Wednesday that he still has “a ton of confidence” in Hartley’s ability and explained that the kicker workouts are a common practice in the NFL.

"We'll do this. We had safeties in as well. We'll have other positions in as well,” Payton said. “Typically, we'll bring in players that are on our short list to validate a grade, make sure we feel the same when they leave. ...

"[But] Garrett has done it in so many big spots. 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."

In 2009, Hartley served a four-game suspension to start the season after testing positive for a banned stimulant, and then he struggled with his consistency when he finally won the job back in December. But he went on to become a postseason hero, making the game-winning field goal in overtime of the NFC Championship Game and making three long field goals in the Super Bowl.

However, in 2010, Hartley struggled again and temporarily lost his job before bouncing back. Then in 2011, he missed the entire season with a hip injury.

Last year was about the only ordinary season of Hartley’s career. He made 18 of 22 field-goal attempts. For his career, Hartley has made 76 of 93 field-goal attempts (81.7 percent).