It’s a meritocracy, so Colts’ sticking with kicker Michael Badgley

Indianapolis Colts

INDIANAPOLIS – He was supposed to be a short-timer.

He was supposed to come in until Rodrigo Blankenship’s injured hip healed, make his kicks, then be on his way.

Often, that’s the nomadic life of a kicker. Here today, somewhere else tomorrow.

So on some level, Carson Wentz’s reaction was appropriate when the door opened and he headed into the Farm Bureau Insurance Football Center media room for his normal Wednesday chat.

Michael Badgley still was seated behind the microphone.

Wentz paused.

“Sorry to interrupt, Badg,’’ he said.

It wasn’t a problem. Badgley’s give-and-take with the media had just ended.

But while he left the room, the fill-in guy isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

That old NFL adage of a player not losing his starting job because of injury?

Not here, and not in this instance.

“He’s been kicking exceedingly well,’’ coach Frank Reich said of Badgley. “This is a meritocracy as we all know, and he’s certainly earned that spot.’’

Badgley has been perfection personified since being signed Oct. 14 for the Indianapolis Colts’ week 7 meeting with the Houston Texans. Three days earlier, Blankenship sustained a hip injury in pregame warm-ups at Baltimore that greatly impacted the game – in a 31-25 overtime loss, he missed a PAT, had a 37-yard field goal attempt blocked and yanked what would have been a game-winning 47-yarder as time expired in regulation – and altered the team’s kicking dynamics.

Blankenship remains on the injured reserve list, even though in many instances he might have reclaimed his job.

Reich mentioned two weeks ago Blankenship still was in the process of regaining his strength and stamina, but had progressed to the point he could do his job. He was eligible to come off IR.

“Could he kick?’’ Reich said. “Yes, but we’re going to go with Badgley for right now.’’

Clearly, that hasn’t changed.

Reich has been adamant the team was going to ride the hot hand – well, foot – and that’s exactly what it’s doing.

“It’s really nothing against Rod,’’ he said. “We love Rod. We love Rod, everything about him.

“But Badgley is playing very well.’’

In seven games, he’s 38-of-38: 10-of-10 on field goals, 28-of-28 on PATs.

The only thing missing from Badgley’s seven-game resume? Instances where his leg strength is needed. His 45-yarder against Tampa Bay is his long with the Colts, although the 42-yarder in the rain and wind in week 7 against San Francisco is unquestionably his best.

Badgley was 3-of-9 on 50-plus-yard attempts during three seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers. It included a franchise-record 59-yarder.

Badgley never allowed the possibility of being a Colt only until Blankenship was ready to return to alter his outlook. He was a kicker looking for work after being released following a week 1 stint with the Tennessee Titans (1-for-2 on PATs, a missed 47-yard field goal in a 38-13 loss to Arizona).

“I just saw it as an opportunity,’’ he said. “They don’t come too often, right? So I just saw it as an opportunity and went one kick at a time. Never really thought about it other than that.’’

Did he ever envision being in a position where he’d be still answering questions from the media this deep into the season? Again, Blankenship probably could return, and let’s not forget, he was just short of perfect before the hip injury: 9-of-10 on field goals, 9-of-9 on PATs.

“In my own head, sure,’’ Badgley said. “Like I said, I’m going one day at a time, one kick at a time. Of course I want to take every opportunity I can get and run with it.

“I’m rollin’ with the punches . . . I’m never going to sell myself short. It’s one of those situations where – it sounds like a broken record at this point – just was a great opportunity and continuing to roll with it.’’

Badgley was evasive when asked if it’s the least bit awkward being around Blankenship, who earned the kicking job during the 2020 training camp and set club rookie records with 139 points, 32 made field goals and 43 PATs.

“We have a great team here,’’ he said. “These guys put people in this position in the organization for a reason. I wouldn’t see it like that (awkward).

“We’re one big team. It’s been good.’’

Wentz has been impressed with Badgley’s ability to step right in and handle “a high-stress position’’ with such aplomb.

“He’s done a great job filling in and really taking advantage of his chance,’’ he said.

Badgley has yet to find a permanent residence, which comes with the territory. But he knows his way around Indy. The Colts signed him as an undrafted rookie out of Miami following the 2018 draft to ease Adam Vinatieri’s training camp workload.

“This is the only team that really gave me a chance coming out of college,’’ he said. “It was super easy when I came back here . . . it was a lot of the same faces, a lot of the same coaches.’’

That includes the same holder (Rigoberto Sanchez) and snapper (Luke Rhodes).

“They make it super easy,’’ Badgley said. “Just trying to kick the ball.’’

That, noted Reich, might be the key to his kicker’s success. He apparently doesn’t over-think things.

“There are some kickers I view as extremely technical and analytical,’’ Reich said. “I don’t see him as one of those. He’s technically sound and everything, but he’s got more of a ‘Hey, I’m just going with the flow’ kind of attitude.

“Sometimes that can play to your benefit, and he’s certainly making that play to his benefit.’’

Listen to the Colts Blue Zone Podcast for weekly coverage and analysis of the Indianapolis Colts.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51.

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