SAN DIEGO — Maybe one of the more underpublicized battles during the Chargers training camp and preseason took place between kickers Nate Kaeding and Nick Novak.
Kaeding, the team’s veteran kicker, ultimately won out for the position. Following the injury that kept him out for all but the very first play of the very first game of last season, fighting for his job this preseason, he said, was the furthest thing from his mind.
“I had enough on my plate,” Kaeding said. “Kind of coming back from my injury, and dealing with getting my body in line and then also getting the rhythm back with the kicking, I think that mostly dominated most of my thought process.”
But Kaeding said it was a great preseason all along. “I came in and felt like I kind of hit the ground running and certainly had the good game up in Minnesota and felt like I came into the opener … prepared for sure.”
While he may not have been prepared to be called upon so many times in Monday night’s 22-14 win over the Oakland Raiders, Kaeding responded by going a perfect five for five in field goals, amassing 15 points on his right foot alone.
Head coach Norv Turner was full of praise for his kicker, whom he called the best kicker he’s ever been with.
Turner said Kaeding is one of those players that embodies the team’s high character and ability to overcome adversity.
“I just think of the guys and the adversity that our players have overcome to continue to play; guys who’ve had season-ending surgeries throughout their career, guys who’ve had significant injuries and had to come back from them.
“Nate played one play. He kicked off and he had a season-ending injury, and he had a pretty extensive surgery. He’s worked hard, it just doesn’t happen. He’s worked awfully hard to get back to being himself and maybe even better than he was,” Turner said.
Turner went on to describe the team as a “resilient group,” because of their ability to overcome despite the disappointments over the last couple of years.
Kaeding said he’d had doubts that he would be able to return to the field and play again. Doctors told him his injury last year (he tore ligaments in his knee) wasn’t a career-ending injury, but a career-threatening injury.
“It’s always a fine line,” he said. “There’s always other people there that can do your job. The train keeps moving down the tracks and you have those little thoughts in your mind and you can either let it eat away at you or you can let it drive you and make you get better, and work that much harder to get back to that point you were at,” he said.
As Kaeding begins his 9th season, he knows to enjoy the win today but to move on and get ready for tomorrow. “In my position, in this business, it’s all about the next one. Whether I would’ve made all five of the (field goals) or missed all five of them, you still got to go out there next Sunday and get the job done,” he said.
The Chargers will face the Tennessee Titans on a shortened week Sunday at Qualcomm.
The Titans are coming off of a loss to the New England Patriots in a game that saw Titans quarterback Jake Locker leave in the fourth quarter after injuring his shoulder.
Early reports from the Titans say that Locker has a “pretty good” chance of playing Sunday.
With the running game still in question for the Chargers, the Titans shared a similar lackluster rushing presence, having gained only 20 yards on 16 plays. The Chargers gained 32 yards on 20 plays.
On Tuesday the team announced the signing of 10-year veteran guard/tackle Reggie Wells. Wells was with the Green Bay Packers during this year’s training camp.