Since the start of the 2016 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have attempted 42 field goals and made exactly two-thirds of them. That 66.7% success rate is the worst in the NFL in that span, and it certainly helped a team that has been on the edge of busting into the league's elite that entire time.
None of those 14 missed field goals – nor any of the four inaccurate extra-point attempts in the same span – have come off the foot of Patrick Murray. The next one will and, he says, the results of the past 13 months will have no bearing on his own performance. Nor will the weight of expectations caused by the team's obvious need to fix one very specific problem.
"I think there's pressure at every position when you get into this league, not so much the kicking aspect of it," said Murray on Tuesday, one day after he had re-signed with the Buccaneers. "And, truth be told, whatever happened in the past is in the past. I'm looking forward to Sunday. That's all that I can control and I'm looking forward to putting some points on the board."
After seeing each of their last two games come down to the very last play – one that worked out and one that didn't – the Buccaneers would welcome all the additional points they can get on Sunday. Murray replaces Nick Folk, the veteran kicker who started out the season well before missing six of his last combined field goals and PATs. Folk had won a training camp battle over 2016 draft pick Roberto Aguayo, a 71.0% kicker as a rookie.
In fact, the Buccaneers' kicker situation has been in flux since Connor Barth tore an Achilles tendon just before training camp in 2013. Since then, the best results the team has gotten were in 2014, when Murray won the job, made his NFL debut and hit on 20 of 24 field goals, including five of six from 50 and beyond.
"We were laughing about it yesterday – it's kind of come full-circle," said Murray. "It is a journey, and more than ever now I believe that God does have a plan for everything, and God's timing is never wrong. The two injuries that I had were supposed to happen; there's a reason for that. I'm supposed to be back here; there's a reason for that as well. And I'm just ready to embrace this opportunity.
"I'm a better man. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually I'm a better man, so absolutely I'm a better kicker as well."
Murray's confidence and his previous success in Tampa certainly add promise to his return, as did his performance in a Monday tryout that included about a half-dozen candidates. Murray said he did well, estimating his longest field goal during the tryouts to be from 59 yards. He has also felt in a groove in recent months as he's been training with his father in New Jersey, hitting the gym five times a week and kicking on the Don Bosco Prep field on Mondays, Wednesday and Fridays.
None of those kicks on his old high school field felt as good as the ones during his tryout at One Buccaneer Place, however.
"It felt great," he said. "It felt like I was back home. It's good to go out and kick on those fields, and that's quite a facility being built out there so that was nice to see as well. Looking forward to using it."
After his year as the Bucs' kicker, he spent the next season on Tampa Bay's injured reserve list with a knee injury. He won the job in Cleveland in 2016 but suffered a second knee injury after just two games and was again lost for the season. Through hard work and a good support system, he says he has gotten the knee back to a point where it feels "better than it ever has." Following that ordeal, it felt just as good to walk back into the Bucs' locker room as it did to kick field goals out back.
"There's pressure at every position but it's how you deal with it, and to be honest with you I feel very comfortable in this locker room," he said. "I know these guys feel comfortable with me so I think we work well together. I'm looking forward to the challenge."