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One step at a time

Fellow kickers advise patience with rookie Gostkowski

One player suited up throughout the 1960s and ranks second on the Patriots' all-time points list. The other player is currently in his seventh NFL season and faces the Patriots twice a year.

Gino Cappelletti and Rian Lindell played in different eras, but they share a common link as field goal kickers. And they have a good idea what is going through the mind of Patriots rookie Stephen Gostkowski, who has had field goals blocked each of the last two weeks.

``You have to have lined up to kick to understand a kicker," Cappelletti said. ``You're going to have those days. It's a roller coaster and you have to work through those dips. Everyone has them."

Cappelletti, who provides color commentary for Patriots radio broadcasts, remembers that Adam Vinatieri had a similar dip early in his career. The Patriots were visiting Buffalo and Vinatieri -- in his second career game -- missed from 45 and 25 yards, and had a 47-yard attempt blocked.

``He was just having one of those days," Cappelletti said. ``When you miss that first one, it makes the second one even more important. The thing that I would talk about with Adam was that even during those dips, you stay with what got you there. You want to go through your normal routine and stay in that rhythm. You have to trust yourself."

Lindell, who boomed a 53-yard field goal in the Bills' season-opening loss to the Patriots at Gillette Stadium, can empathize with Gostkowski. He also encountered some early struggles, missing a 21-yard attempt in his third career game with the Seahawks, then followed up his rookie season by hitting just 62 percent of his attempts (20 of 32) in 2001.

Lindell's first thought is that the Patriots aren't doing Gostkowski any favors.

``That field is absolutely horrible, it's awful," he said. ``It's like you're constantly hitting out of a sand trap. When we came in, I was thinking we could escape in Week 1 with a decent field, but the only difference between this year and previous years was that it was a little softer sand. It reminded me of the golf courses I play in Oregon.

``When that's the case, as a kicker, you really feel like you have to pick it clean. To me, that's what made Adam so impressive; he was consistently kicking out of that sand. You wonder if you can really go after the ball. It makes it even harder."

Lindell, who called the Gillette Stadium field the worst he's kicked on in his career, said Bills punter Brian Moorman, a 2005 Pro Bowler, also struggled in the season opener because he couldn't dig in with his plant foot. Broncos punter and kickoff man Paul Ernster also commented on how it was difficult to plant when kicking on painted dirt.

Gostkowski's left plant foot appeared to slip slightly on his 37-yard attempt against the Broncos. Lindell said that can cause a kick to be too low, because the ball is struck higher than intended.

Against the Jets, in East Rutherford, N.J., Gostkowski also appeared to kick the ball low, although penetration on the right side of the line contributed to the block.

The 29-year-old Lindell said that in times of struggles, kickers must walk a fine line. They need to review why they are missing, but at the same time, they must keep those thoughts in the proper place.

``It's hard, but you have to forget what you've done and move on," he said. ``It's sort of like Tiger Woods, he talks about mentally forgetting his last shot and going to what the situation is right now. That's what you have to do.

``I think there is a tendency to think, `I just can't miss,' and that doesn't help. You need to switch that around and look at what you need to do, instead of what you can't do."

Cappelletti believes that is the challenge for all kickers, no matter the era.

``You try not to have any negative thoughts, but that's going to require mental toughness," he said. ``In the end, it's about mental toughness. Some guys have difficulty with that, some guys are mentally tough.

``Everything looked like it was coming along in the preseason; he was 100 percent, and the snaps and holds were just what you'd want. Now, with having two blocked, the thing you'd be concerned about is if he happens to give it a thought, that would be a negative. You want to have a positive thought at all times, or if not, no thought. That's almost better.

``I recall the time when I was having good success kicking, when I looked up at the goalpost, I always saw the ball going right through. That was the vision I had."

Lindell believes Gostkowski will work his way through the kinks.

``I think he's a really good kicker from what I've seen; he hits a good ball," he said. ``He'll be fine. Everyone has missed two in a row."

Some, however, never get over the hump, like Scott Sisson in 1993. A fifth-round draft choice of the Patriots that year, Sisson was 14 of 26 and never kicked for the team after that one season.

Cappelletti doesn't see the Patriots heading down a Sissonlike path.

``Stephen has a proven leg, with a proven technique, and now he's developing his own personality as a kicker," he said. ``He strikes me as the type of guy who has the mental toughness. That's what I think it's going to take to get over those blocks."

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