Mare to remain Saints' kicker despite groin injury

Updated: October 11, 2007, 7:34 PM ET
By Len Pasquarelli | ESPN.com

Barring a setback on Friday, 11th-year veteran Olindo Mare will handle the placement chores for the New Orleans on Sunday at Seattle, and the struggling Saints will not sign another kicker to even temporarily replace him.

With Mare battling a groin injury, and having converted only three of seven attempts so far in 2007, the Saints auditioned seven free agent kickers this week, including veterans Mike Vanderjagt, Martin Gramatica and Billy Cundiff. But the Saints held off on signing another kicker because they wanted to see how Mare performed on Thursday at practice.

And, apparently, Mare kicked well enough to satisfy the coaching staff that he can handle most reasonable field goal tries.

Sources said that, had the Saints opted to sign another kicker, it probably would have been Gramatica, who was recently released by Dallas from its injured reserve list.

"I felt OK," Mare told the New Orleans Times-Picayune after Thursday's practice. "I feel better. We'll see. Hopefully, by Sunday it'll be to where I can perform better. You can really tell until the next day. I did what we had scripted and tried to stay loose the whole time. Obviously, I wasn't 100 percent. . . . I won't be able to hit any 60-yard field goals or kick off, but I don't think they're expecting that."

Mare suffered the strained groin during an Oct. 4 practice while working on onside kicks.

He has undergone treatments, had an MRI exam and received injections.

In last week's loss to Carolina, Mare had a 20-yard field goal try blocked and missed wide left on a 54-yard attempt. His longest conversion of the season is from 34 yards.

"Mare looked a lot better, looked sharp and did a good job," coach Sean Payton said. "I don't know if he's 100 percent, but he looked noticeably better. . . . That was encouraging."

The Saints acquired Mare from the Miami Dolphins in a trade this spring in exchange for a sixth-round draft choice. For his career, Mare, 34, has converted 248 of 310 field goal tries and 319 of 324 extra point attempts, for 1,063 points.

The former Syracuse star, who spent 10 years with the Dolphins before being traded, has six seasons of 100 or more points, with a career best of 144 points in 1999. With the Dolphins in 2006, he made 26 of 36 field goal attempts.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com.