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Biggs: Saints must put Carney on short leash

New Orleans might turn to Hartley if veteran's struggles continue Brad Biggs

Print This December 03, 2009, 11:00 AM EST

Could the New Orleans Saints be in the market for a kicker down the stretch?

Don’t discount the idea as veteran John Carney continues to struggle with coach Sean Payton, to this point, resisting the urge to turn to Garrett Hartley, who remains on the roster after being suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league’s policy on anabolic steroids and related substances.

Carney missed a 37-yard field goal Monday in the Saints’ 37-17 demolition of the New England Patriots, the kind of miss that won’t be tolerated in a close game. He put a 30-yard field goal that was good off the left upright.

Carney is 13-for-17 on the season in field goals, but three misses have come inside 40 yards and he’s missed two extra points. The last thing a coach wants to worry about with the playoffs coming is a kicker that can’t make what should be routine kicks, especially indoors.

“I just didn't strike the ball well,” Carney said. “There is always concern when you miss kicks. But you go back to work and prepare and straighten things out.”

Hartley was 13-for-13 on field goals last season, and the Saints believe he has a bright future ahead of him. That’s why they kept him following the suspension. The Saints were rolling at the time and the decision was to go with a veteran in Carney who might be more stable. Now, that has to be in question. He's got to be on a short leash. A series of misses cost his contemporary Jason Elam his job in Atlanta earlier this week.

You’d have to imagine with Hartley on the roster that the club would turn to him first, but don’t be surprised if there’s an out-of-work kicking convention in New Orleans if Carney struggles any more. Who wouldn’t want to kick for some playoff checks?

“I think you pay attention to the performance of your players and certainly you do it with John,” Payton said. “The difference is you probably can't bring two kickers and a punter up to the game-day roster.

“So we will continue to work with both of them and continue to clean up the operation with the first group and continue to give Garrett work and monitor his progress and put the best player out there each week that we think helps us to win.”

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