PITTSFORD – When the Buffalo Bills used a sixth-round draft pick on a kicker, Rian Lindell hoped the rookie would be a dud.
That would’ve made the situation easier for Lindell. He could compete against the kid and not feel one bit conflicted.
“When I first met him, I kind of hoped he’d be a knucklehead,” Lindell told The Buffalo News on Monday. “Maybe that would give me a little bit of an advantage.”
Dustin Hopkins, though, turned out to be the genuine article.
The Bills conferred the job to Hopkins on Friday by releasing Lindell, the most accurate kicker in club history. Lindell was Buffalo’s longest-tenured player, entering his 14th NFL season and 11th with the team.
Hopkins will be the first rookie to kick field goals for the Bills since Jake Arians replaced Steve Christie in 2000.
“He’s good,” Lindell said of Hopkins. “He’s as advertised. He’s a good kid, a hard worker. He’s going to be good.”
Hopkins learned he’d won the job when Lindell sent him a congratulatory text.
“I find myself kind of in a paradox,” Hopkins said after Friday’s practice at St. John Fisher College. “This is something I’ve worked my whole life for. …
“But at the same time, it’s the bad part about pro sports, parting with a guy I have a lot of respect for and have admired watching for a long time and has meant so much to the community.”
Lindell’s leg has lost power. The Bills drafted kickoff specialist John Potter last year with the intention of carrying two kickers on the roster. The Bills cut Potter during the season because he wasn’t generating touchbacks. Still, former coach Chan Gailey didn’t trust Lindell to try field goals longer than 50 yards.
The team’s doubts about Lindell resurfaced when they drafted Hopkins in April.
Hopkins kicked in the first half of each preseason game. He was perfect on four field-goal attempts, making kicks from 24 and 23 yards in the opener against the Indianapolis Colts and from 39 and 35 yards Friday night against the Minnesota Vikings.
Lindell kicked a 30-yard field goal in Indianapolis but didn’t try any Friday night.
Lindell found the competition to be fair and blamed only himself for losing his job.
“I just didn’t kick like I wanted to kick,” Lindell said. “I should have kicked better. I think I’m better than I’ve showed. I just didn’t hit as clean a ball as I feel I could have. That’s a little frustrating.”
Lindell holds club records with an 83.3 career field-goal percentage, a 92.0 field-goal percentage in 2006, 18 consecutive field goals made in 2007 and 225 consecutive successful extra points.
He ranks second in all-time Bills scoring with 980 points, 31 points behind Christie.
Lindell told The News he won’t retire yet, that he’ll try to hook on with another team this preseason.
“I’ll keep trudging along and hopefully go somewhere and get a look,” Lindell said. “I’ll keep searching for that perfect step, that holy grail of hitting the ball squarely down my line whenever I want. That’s the quest.
“I’ll just have to do it in another uniform.”
But Lindell also declared he’ll forever be a Bills fan. He thanked the team for signing him three times.
“I appreciate all the fans that gave me the benefit of the doubt,” Lindell said. “There are so many that come up to you and say, ‘Go Bills,’ through thick or thin. I suppose it’s easy in a way to be negative with no playoffs or whatever, but there’s a lot of people out there that have always been positive toward me.
“So, ‘Go Bills.’ It’s nice to have a team to root for. I’m all in, man. I love that franchise.”