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Mike Nugent Hopes To Start Kicking In May

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From offseason workouts, through training camp and preseason, Mike Nugent and David Rayner battled to win the place kicker job last year. Battle seems a bit over dramatic, doesn't it? It's not like we're talking about Mad Mel Max or Sylvester Stallone's uncomfortable arm wrestling movie -- note: the battle in that case was not tearing the optic nerve when rolling our eyes. Nugent converted three of four kicks during the preseason, including multiple 50-yard conversions, winning the job. During the regular season, Nugent converted 78.9% of his field goals; the lowest conversion by a Bengals place kicker dating back to Neil Rackers' 60.7% conversion in 2001.

But let's be fair with Nugent. Of the four missed field goals, two were beyond 50 yards and another was blocked due to protection breakdowns. After all, Nugent won the AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September, converting all eight attempts including five against the Baltimore Ravens that earned him AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for week two.

Unfortunately, Nugent's season came to an end after suffering a season-ending ACL injury late in the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts. Nugent, placed on Injured Reserve the following day, suffered the injury while trailing an onside kick into a pile that the Bengals would recover. With the possibility of the owners locking out the players soon, Nugent will head off to Ohio State to resume his rehabilitation. According to Geoff Hobson, Nugent expects to start kicking again in May.

As for the rest of 2010 after Nugent went on IR, the Bengals signed Aaron Pettrey, who converted two of four field goals, and released him after two games. The team settled on Clint Stitser, who converted seven straight field goals before missing his first field goal of the year during the team's regular season finale against the Baltimore Ravens. Ironically, Stitser had a better field goal percentage (87.5%) than PAT conversion (80%).

Nugent and Stitser are both signed through 2011, with Nugent scheduled to make $640,000 in base salary and Stitser scheduled to earn $405,000.