Renton – Olindo Mare wants a long-term relationship with the Seattle Seahawks, but by Saturday – when the team makes final cuts – he could be released and looking for a job with another team.
Mare moved his wife, Sandy, and their children from Florida to the Seattle area, enrolling their kids in school and making a year-round commitment to living close to where he works.
Mare has said he’s prepared to finish out his career as a Seahawk.
But there’s one hurdle: He has to beat out fellow kicker Brandon Coutu to earn his job as the team’s kicker – again.
Seahawks coach Jim Mora said there’s no clear favorite heading into the team’s final exhibition game against Oakland tonight at Qwest Field.
“It’s very close. Very close,” joked Mora, who’s been tight lipped about the competition. “I mean, it’s neck and neck, how about that? Instead of ‘very close,’ I’ll give you ‘neck and neck.’ That’s a better cliché.”
And Seahawks general manager Tim Ruskell had indicated before the start of training camp that, unlike last year when the team kept both kickers on the active roster, the Seahawks will not keep two kickers this season.
Mare, 36, had been injury prone before showing up on Seattle’s doorstep last season, resulting in his field goal percentage dropping in each of the previous two seasons. Mare converted a career-low 59 percent of his attempts in 2007 before a hip injury ended his season in New Orleans.
So the Seahawks chose to keep around then-rookie Coutu as insurance should Mare’s health falter in 2008.
It didn’t. Mare had one his best years in his 14 seasons a pro, converting 24 of 27 field goal attempts for 89 percent and all 30 of his extra points. Mare also finished with 22 touchbacks, good enough to tie him for second in the league overall.
Coutu has yet to kick in a regular-season game but showed promise by making all 11 field goals in two seasons of preseason games before missing badly from 51 yards into the wind at Kansas City last week.
Mare also missed twice against the Chiefs, including a 51-yarder into the wind that had enough distance, and a 27-yard field goal attempt that got away from holder Jon Ryan.
Coutu has kicked off 11 times during the exhibition season, with no touchbacks and the average kick reaching the 6-yard line. Mare only has kicked off three times during preseason, with an average distance to the 2-yard line
The two kickers will get one last shot to put their best foot forward tonight. Even though Mare is having to compete for his job again after a solid performance in 2008, he’s taking the competition in stride.
“They know what they’re doing,” Mare said. “I mean, I’m not going to go out there and be, ‘Oh my God I’ve got to make every kick or I’m out.’ You’re always kicking to make it, whether you’re playing in preseason or practice or in a real game or the playoffs – whatever it is. You’re not going to change your philosophy on what you’re doing just because it’s a preseason game.”
Financial considerations also will play a role.
Mare is in the final year of a two-year deal that will pay him $1.5 million this season. Mare’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, sought a contract extension for his client before the season started.
Coutu is in the second year of a four-year deal that pays him $1.75 million over the life of the contract.
Mare said he and Coutu have gotten along well during the last two seasons.
“We’re fine,” he said. “I have no issues. I think it’s great to get to compete against Brandon. I think he’s a really good field goal kicker. He’s worked on his kickoffs, and we’ve gotten along. We’ll go out to dinner. There’s only one way you can take it; you can either be a jackass about it or you can just move along.”
Move along is something Mare would like to do. With the team’s first regular-season game a little more than a week away, he would like to have the competition behind him in order to start preparing for the team’s season opener against the Rams.
“I haven’t got to unleash one yet,” Mare said about his lack of kickoffs during the exhibition season. “And that’s tough because … I’ve got a game in a week, and I need to kick off and re-establish (what I did) last year.”
Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437
oakland (1-2) at SEATTLE (3-0)
Kickoff: 7 p.m., Qwest Field, Seattle.
Television: Ch. 5.
Radio: 710-AM, 97.3-FM.
The skinny: Team sources said the Seahawks placed offensive lineman Cory Withrow on injured reserve and replaced him on the 75-man roster with free agent safety Nate Ness. The University of Arizona product was recently waived by the New York jets. ... The Seahawks are only expected to play the starters for a series or two tonight, as coach Jim Mora tries to give players on the bubble ample playing time to make the team. … Walter Jones (knee), Marcus Trufant (back) and Chris Spencer (quad) will not play. Seneca Wallace (groin), C.J. Wallace (ribs), Logan Payne (leg), T.J. Houshmandzadeh (soreness) and Travis Fisher (hamstring) are questionable. … The Seahawks and Communities In Schools of Seattle (CISS) invite all fans to participate in the “Stuff the Bus” program to help fill a school bus with backpacks and school supplies at Qwest Field during the game tonight. A yellow school bus will be parked in front of the Qwest Field Event Center prior to the game. The goal is to fill the bus with enough supplies for 7,000 students. Financial contributions will also be accepted. … Fans are being asked to arrive early for the game because of weekday traffic. … The game is a sellout.
Next: 1:15 p.m. Sept. 13, St. Louis Rams, Qwest Field (regular season opener).
Eric D. Williams, The News Tribune