No one could have blamed Kevin Stempke for treating his most recent NFL stop with the Oakland Raiders as a weigh station.
While Stempke's status with the team hinges on Shane Lechler's return to health, Stempke continues to impress and may not be unemployed long once Lechler returns. Lechler's status for Sunday's regular season opener, and perhaps beyond, is still doubtful because of a quad injury he sustained after Oakland's 20-6 exhibition loss to Dallas.
Oakland hoped Lechler, who has been a Pro Bowl performer in each of his first two NFL seasons, would be ready to go by the regular season but since he is not at full strength, the team kept both Lechler and Stempke when making the final cuts. Stempke, who was waived by Green Bay prior to the 2001 regular season, began training camp with St. Louis before coming to Oakland. Green Bay signed Stempke as an undrafted free agent before the 2001 camp.
The left-footed Stempke performed strongly in three exhibitions games for Oakland in assembling a 44.4 gross average and 41.0 net. Ideally, the Raiders would like to have Lechler return to full strength because he is also the holder and is capable of filling in as a place-kicker.
"I definitely don't look at this situation like it's the end," Stempke said. "I hope this is the beginning of a long career. A lot of people that know me think I'm still in St. Louis."
Stempke's performance, however, creates a situation where the Raiders do not have to rush Lechler back before he is fully healed. The Raiders would likely release Stempke when Lechler returns but the former can continue to bolster his cause to land with another club.