Kaeding begins anew

The memory lingers. Nate Kaeding lines up for the kick and it sails wide and with go the San Diego Chargers playoff aspirations. A new year has dawned as offseason workouts are under way and the best attribute a kicker can have is a short memory.

Nate Kaeding has been spotted around town, and by all accounts, that black cloud which was last seen over him has dissipated.

Kaeding's missed 40-yard field goal in the playoff overtime loss to the Jets was a downer end to an upbeat season. Kaeding, of course, was devastated in the wake of the misfire, but has since bounced back.

He's wearing a smile again, and eager to chalk up the experience to all being part of a pro athlete's topsy-turvy life.

All of which surprised coach Marty Schottenheimer not in the least.

"The best thing that he has going for him, in my view, is the strength of self-confidence that he has," Schottenheimer said. "He will rebound from that without any doubt in my mind."

Some thought the Chargers were out of their minds for burning a third-round pick on Kaeding. But the Iowa product -- he was a two-time team captain for the Hawkeyes -- had a sensational rookie season, converting on 20 of 25 attempts.

Kaeding set a rookie scoring mark for the Chargers, collecting 114 points. Kaeding led all NFL rookies in scoring and finished 10th overall among all kickers.

So the final kick -- which was like a kick in the stomach to the Chargers and their fans -- won't linger with Kaeding, Schottenheimer predicts.

"Given those opportunities again, which he most certainly will, he will deliver," Schottenheimer said.

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