RENTON, Wash. -- Blair Walsh knows as well as any kicker that tuning out public criticism is much easier said than done when things aren't going right. He had to do it when his career got badly off track in Minnesota, and he's having to do it again in Seattle now that the misses are piling up on his stat sheet.
"I think anybody who tells you it's easy is probably lying," Walsh said. "It's not that it's easy to block it out, but at this point in your professional career, you have to just realize that the outside noise is not going to determine whether you have the job or not. It's what you do on the field. And you have to realize that and you have to stay true to your skills and what's gotten you to this point. Sometimes that can be challenging when the ball's not going in for us. But you can't judge your season on one or two games good or bad. So you just to try to be more consistent and do your job."
Walsh's career turnaround was going according to plan at the start of the season, his first in Seattle. The Seahawks signed him to a one-year deal before letting their longtime kicker, Stephen Hauschka, leave in free agency, and Walsh made 12 of his first 13 field goals. But since then he has gone 8-of-14.
The turning point was Seattle's 17-14 loss to Washington in Week 9, when he missed all three of his attempts. Last Sunday he pushed a 38-yarder wide right just before halftime of the Seahawks' 30-24 loss at Jacksonville, his sixth miss over the past six games.
That led to a question this week for coach Pete Carroll about why the team still has confidence in Walsh.
“He's a good kicker," Carroll said. "He's got a great leg, he's got terrific mechanics, great habits, his mentality stays strong. Yeah, he missed a couple here and there, but he's doing things right and gives himself a chance. So he's our guy. That's what we've got. We're hoping he's going to come through."
Walsh seconded Carroll's notion about his mechanics not being an issue.
"They've just been untimely misses here and there, and I don't look at them as it's something I've got to change [mechanically]," Walsh said. "I feel confident about the way I'm hitting the ball, and I know that sooner or later it's just going to consistently go in and back to kind of how it was at the beginning."
Five of Walsh's seven misses this season have come at home. Interestingly, he said he's taken some midweek trips to CenturyLink Field to kick there instead of at the team's practice facility. It's something he got in the habit of doing when he was with the Vikings, especially after the team moved out of the Metrodome and played its home games at the University of Minnesota's outdoor stadium.
The idea is to get used to all the intricacies of kicking at the stadium, which can't be done from the practice facility. It's harder to do that on game day, Walsh explained, because the field is crowded with other players warming up. And he needs to keep his leg fresh for when the kicks actually count, so there's only so much work he can put in right before a game.
Walsh said he kicked at CenturyLink Field during the weeks leading up to a few home games this season, most recently two weeks ago, before the Seahawks' win over the Eagles. Long-snapper Tyler Ott drove them there and they stayed for only 45 minutes so as to maintain their usual practice schedule. Walsh connected from 46 yards out on his only attempt of that game. He said he'll head back this week with Seattle hosting the Rams on Sunday.
"I felt like it helped me prepare a little bit more for the game," he said of his most recent trip. "I could really not worry about hitting too many balls because it's a Wednesday and I felt like it helped me have success in the Eagles game."
Money might be one reason Seattle has stuck with Walsh despite his increasingly shaky accuracy. The Seahawks have been scraping by with minimal salary-cap space for several weeks, and because of Walsh's vested veteran status, the remainder of his $800,000 base salary could become guaranteed even if he's released. That could create a scenario in which the team would gain no cap relief by moving on from Walsh while also having to pay his replacement.
The Seahawks have had no official tryouts with kickers of late, according to ESPN's Field Yates.
"It's definitely a 'What have you done for me lately?' business, but being here, everyone's been supportive and I think they know what I'm capable of and I've shown that," he said. "I just haven't been as consistent as I want to be. It's something I'm still working and still trying to get through. We've still got a long season left, the way we look at it."