FOXBOROUGH — For the first time since 2010, the Patriots will have a new kicker Sunday after the club placed veteran Stephen Gostkowski on injured reserve Wednesday afternoon.
Gostkowski is suffering from a left hip injury and will need season-ending surgery, according to an ESPN report. He is expected to return in 2020.
The identity of Gostkowski’s replacement is undisclosed as the club hasn’t officially signed anyone after holding postpractice auditions inside Gillette Stadium.
The Patriots worked out Kai Forbath, Elliott Fry, Mike Nugent, Blair Walsh, and Matthew Wright in some swirling wind and rain on Wednesday. It’s likely more tryouts could come Thursday before a decision is reached.
“Whoever the next guy is that comes in there, he doesn’t need to try and be Steve or try to be Adam Vinatieri; he just needs to be himself,’’ said special teams captain Matthew Slater. “He’ll be here for a reason and that reason will be because Coach [Bill] Belichick thinks he’s going to give us the best chance to help this team win games. We’ll support him. We’ll do what we can to help him adjust.’’
It’s been a rough season for Gostkowski, who missed his fourth extra point of the season in Sunday’s win in Buffalo. On the ensuing kickoff, Gostkowski made the tackle on Bills return man Andre Roberts, but was slow to get up, so there is a possibility he was either hurt on that play or aggravated an existing condition. NFL Media reported Gostkowski has been dealing with the hip problem since the summer.
Gostkowski, a 14-year veteran, is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer (1,775 points) and has been remarkably durable during his career. He has attempted every Patriots kick since the start of the 2011 season.
A fourth-round pick in 2006, the 35-year-old Gostkowski had missed just one field goal (7 of 8) this season and was second in the NFL with 21 touchbacks.
Gostkowski suffered a thigh injury late in the 2010 season and was placed on IR. Shayne Graham took over that season, and went 12 for 12 on field goals and 35 of 37 on PATs.
Still, Slater, who said he “learned how to be a professional from Stephen,” remembered it wasn’t smooth sailing from the get-go.
“It was an adjustment,’’ he said. “Shayne Graham came in and kicked for us, and certainly Stephen’s a unique guy in this league — you don’t play for one team for 14 years unless you are. So, it was a little bit of an adjustment. Obviously operationally on field goals, it will be different. We’ll see how kickoffs go. It’s going to be an adjustment, but whatever Coach decides to do, I’m sure will be what he sees is best for the football team moving forward. We’ll make the best of it.’’
The new face may not have to handle kickoff chores as the Patriots already have punter Jake Bailey in house and he showed during camp and the exhibition season that he has the leg for it. The rookie handled kickoff duties at Stanford.
“[Bailey’s] definitely done a good job with everything we’ve asked him to do,’’ said Slater. “He’s more than capable. He did it in college. But what we do moving forward, I don’t know what we’re going to do, nor is that my decision. I’m just out there to cover the kicks when that time comes.’’
Earlier in the day, Belichick said if the team did have kickers in, he didn’t “really think any of that’s related to competition,’’ which led to speculation Gostkowski could be injured.
When asked if he was concerned about how the field goal unit had performed, the coach said there are several areas where the club can improve.
“Yeah, I think as a team, there’s a lot of things that we can do better, so we’re working every area to improve,’’ he said. “I think we can improve in all three phases of the game and within those phases there’s a lot of things we can work on there, as well. We need work on everything. It’s barely October. We’ve got a long way to go.’’