Allen Park — When it comes to specialists in the NFL, there are typically only 32 each of punting, long-snapping and kicking jobs. And the majority of those are stable situations, so when you’re on the outside looking in, you have to fight through the mental hurdles of wondering when or if the next opportunity to break back into the ranks will ever come.
That’s something Michael Badgley has had to deal with much of the past two seasons. After a three-year stint with the Chargers, he’s spent time with four teams, including less than a week with both the Tennessee Titans and Chicago Bears, patiently waiting for his next chance to prove himself.
“It’s easy to just sit there when nothing is going your way, whether you’re not with a team in OTAs or with a team during training camp, to think maybe I’m out of the circuit, maybe there’s nothing there anymore,” Badgley said. “It’s usually around that time when you think nothing is going to happen that something pops up, and if you’re not ready, you’re not going to get the gig. It’s one of those deals where I’ve prided myself on staying the course, sticking with it and not giving in.”
After not being on a roster all offseason, Badgley signed with the Bears in late September. Two days later, he was kicking against the Giants as an injury replacement, making all four of his field-goal attempts, only to be kicked to the curb the next day.
“It was good taking advantage of that shot (in Chicago),” Badgley said. “You go into those positions thinking you want to take the job. You don’t go in thinking, ‘I’m only here for a certain amount of time.’ You want to go in with the mindset you want to take over. Keeping that mentally tough way of thinking is something I’ve always been about.”
Almost immediately after being let go by the Bears, Badgley got the call from the Lions, who were impressed by the performance and in need of a kicker. The team’s then-starter Austin Seibert had been dealing with an injury and the first try at a replacement, Dominik Eberle, struggled in his Detroit debut.
Two weeks later, having gone 2-for-2, including a make from 53 yards, the runway is there in Detroit for Badgley to permanently recapture one of those 32 jobs.
The sample size is obviously small, but the Lions are eager to slow the kicking carousel that’s been aggressively spinning since the team opted not to re-sign Matt Prater as a free agent two offseasons ago. And beyond making his kicks, which is priority one, Badgley has been making a positive impression with his new coaches and teammates, even drawing a comparison to Prater.
“Yeah, he has a great demeanor,” punter and holder Jack Fox said. “Really positive guy, just goes out there and kicks. You can tell there’s not a lot of thoughts about mechanics or any of that stuff. He really just goes out there and kicks, kinda like Prater used to do, to be honest with you. I feel like they have similar demeanors. I’ve only been around Mike for a couple of weeks, but I’ve been really impressed by him.”
Some of that attitude is cultivated from bouncing around the past couple of years. Badgley sometimes only has a couple of days to get familiar with the teammates he relies on to effectively do his job, such as Fox, so he doesn’t want to overcomplicate the process.
“Going into different locker rooms, I just trust those guys automatically,” Badgley said. “I don’t really think too much about it. If you get too technical, that’s where things can go haywire.”
That trust and self-assurance have also caught the attention of special teams coordinator Dave Fipp, who is still getting to know the 27-year-old kicker after the Lions signed him without a tryout following his release from the Bears.
“I love his personality because I think half the time, I’m talking to him, he’s kind of like, ‘OK, I’ve heard from a million of you coaches; I’m good,'” Fipp said. “And I really like that about a guy, and so he’s got kind of a confidence that way that he knows who he is.
“He knows exactly who he is,” Fipp continued. “He doesn’t try to be somebody different. He knows what his leg is. He hits the same ball over and over. He’s very consistent. And he’s comfortable with who he is and I think that gives him an advantage. So, he’s been great to be around. I really enjoy the guy.”
Badgley’s resume speaks for itself. Despite some struggles in his final year with the Chargers, he’s made 81.7% of his career field-goal attempts, not far behind Prater’s 83.2% career mark. And although Badgley hasn’t been as consistent from long distance, he does have a personal best of 59 yards and showed no issues when the Lions asked him to kick from 53 last week against Dallas.
“My one motive is all I needed to do was get a foot in the door,” Badgley said. “Soon as I got my opportunity, I’ve wanted to make the most of it.”