Place kicker Mike Nugent is going to take another week off, deferring to a balky hamstring. That is going to give undrafted rookie Tom Obarski more field time Monday night in the Bengals' second preseason game at Tampa Bay.
Obarski converted three of four field goals, and made both extra-point kicks in the preseason opening win at home against the Giants.
Obarski gets to kick on the road this time. The more experience for the young kicker, the better, especially if Nugent is slow to recover. If Nugent is a go for the season opener, as expected, Obarski will be waived.
"The irony of the Monday night special teams is that the guy who is probably going to get the most work is rookie kicker Tom Obarski, and he’s not going to make the club," said the team's official web site.
Nugent told the Bengals' site that his concern is coming back too soon and then having an injury that puts him out a month "so Obarski figures to get all the kicks like he did last week against the Giants," said Bengals in-house reporter Geoff Hobson.
It's unclear if Nugent's tender hamstring will allow him to kick in the preseason week three dress rehearsal. If Nugent, a 11th-year player, sides with caution and sits out the entire preseason, Obarski could survive the first cut.
That may not be such a bad thing if the same karmic forces are at work with Obarski that were in force when Concordia-St. Paul sent its first player to an NFL camp. Obarski is the second player from the NCAA Division II college in an NFL camp, following defensive end Zach Moore, who was drafted last year by the New England Patriots, just in time to win a Super Bowl ring.
Obarski holds most of Concordia's kicking records. He set career marks with 44 field goals and 250 points. He made three field goals of at least 56 yards, including a school-record 59-yarder as a sophomore.
"His leg strength does stick out," said Bengals special teams coach Darrin Simmons, who first saw Obarski at the Senior Bowl in January. He came away impressed, according to a report at twincities.com. Simmons saw Obarski twice more during pre-draft visits, once in Minnesota and once in Cincinnati.
"The one thing I think that sticks out the most is maybe his mental makeup," Simmons told twincities.com. "He has a calm demeanor to him. It's a little different coming from a small school, but I think his calm demeanor shows he has a great deal of self confidence."
Simmons said Obarski is more than merely a camp leg.
"I don't believe in just bringing in camp legs," Simmons told twincities.com reporter Chris Tomasson. "If we're going to bring somebody in, we're going to bring somebody in that is competition for a spot. I don't want to waste somebody else's time, and I certainly don't want to waste my own time on developing somebody who's not going to be here anyway."
Nugent, 33, is coming off one of his worst seasons, hitting just 78.8 percent of his field-goal attempts. He missed all three of his attempts from 50 yards and out. He made five field goals in a half against Baltimore, then missed three of four against Atlanta. He missed a 36-yard attempt on the last play of overtime in a 37-37 tie with Carolina before finishing the season strong despite the death of his father.
"I think mainly they're looking for some competition to come into training camp to possibly put their trust in another guy," Obarski told Tomasson. "Obviously, Nugent has shown success on the field, and he's been very consistent for 10 years, but it's never been a bad thing to bring in some competition."
If Obarski fails to make the Bengals, his stay in the NFL may not be finished, and he may not be done in the AFC North. His agent told a reporter that 16 teams expressed interest in his client before the draft, most likely as an extra camp leg. According to a report, six teams, including Cincinnati, Baltimore, Cleveland, Green Bay, Miami and Washington had interest after the draft.