IRVING, Texas — Remember last year’s final cuts and how the Cowboys were picking among five kickers? Yep, five.
Shayne Graham, Dave Rayner, David Buehler, Dan Bailey and Kai Forbath were on hand, though Forbath was on the physically unable to perform list at the time. Graham got hurt. Rayner missed a kick. Buehler was too inconsistent.
Bailey won the job almost by default, then went on to have one of the best seasons in team history.
No such decision to be made this year. Bailey made all eight field goal attempts in the preseason and had three touchbacks on kickoffs. Eleven of his 17 kickoffs reached the end zone.
“It’s still an area I’m trying to improve upon,” Bailey said. “We’ve worked hard in the offseason to try to improve that. Hopefully this week I’ll get a little rest and be ready for the Giants.”
Bailey had 24 touchbacks on 67 kickoffs last year and the team eventually put Buehler, a kickoff specialist, on injured reserve with a hip injury.
“I worked hard this year to try to improve leg strength and explosiveness, stuff like that,” Bailey said. “It’s a little bit of (technique and power), but really more just strength and getting a good approach down.”
RELATED: Dan Bailey has no worries this year
This time a year ago, Dan Bailey was on the bubble. The Cowboys had to go through four other kickers before deciding to keep Bailey, and perhaps if Dave Rayner hadn’t gone 0-for-2 against the Dolphins in the preseason finale, the job would have been his.
What a difference a season makes.
Bailey has a secure spot on the Cowboys, having gone 32-for-37 with four game-winners in his first season for the Cowboys. He followed up this preseason by going 8-for-8 after making kicks of 25, 30 and 26 yards Wednesday night.
"It is different, but at the same time, it’s really the same," Bailey said. "My focus now is the same as it was last year. You just make every kick. I go out and give it my best shot. Yeah, there’s not as many people here, but mentally, as far as my approach to the game, it’s the same this year as it was last year."
The Cowboys cut kicker Kris Brown before training camp last year. They cut Shayne Graham and Dave Rayner after training camp. Kai Forbath and David Buehler, both of whom ended up on injured reserve last season, were released this off-season. There no longer is doubt who the Cowboys’ kicker is.
RELATED: LP Ladouceur will be the team’s long snapper another season
Every year, the Cowboys bring in competition for LP Ladouceur. Every year, he keeps his job.
Ladouceur, an unsung and valuable asset, is the team’s long snapper for an eighth season. That was assured when the Cowboys released Charley Hughlett. Hughlett, a rookie from Central Florida, was signed with great expectations. But he was the last of the team’s cuts last Monday.
DALLAS COWBOYS FAMILY FOCUS: Girlfriend’s recovery leaves Dallas Cowboys kicker David Buehler thankful
RIchard W. Rodriguez/ Star-Telegram
IRVING — Their eyes were locked. Blues fixated on blues, as David Buehler recalled the day his girlfriend was diagnosed with a brain aneurysm.
Buehler’s life, once solely consumed by football, had to make room for a possibility that young couples rarely prepare for or ever consider. Brittany Pigrenet, 25, went in for life-saving surgery on the morning of Oct. 22, holding the couple’s 6-week-old son, Bryson, for as long as the hospital staff let her.
“It puts life and everything in perspective,” David said, instinctively turning his gaze and focus on Brittany. “Before I was playing for myself, my family name, my teammates, the organization but now that I’m supporting Brittany and our son, Bryson, it puts everything in perspective.
“You work just that much harder. You put your heart and soul into knowing that I get to come home to the two people I love most.”
Buehler’s professional life with the Dallas Cowboys hasn’t always gone as planned. Drafted as a kickoff specialist in 2009, Buehler became the full-time place-kicker last season and made 24 of 32 field goals. Rookie Dan Bailey took over field-goal duties this season, with Buehler going back to kickoffs.
IRVING, Texas — As expected, the Cowboys signed practice squad receiver Akwasi Owusu-Ansah to the 53-man roster Saturday and waived offensive lineman Daniel Loper.
The move adds receiver depth with Miles Austin (hamstring) sidelined and paves the way for Owusu-Ansah — a 2010 fourth-round pick and former kickoff returner — to possibly have a role in the return game Sunday against Buffalo.
At the start of the season, Owusu-Ansah moved from safety to receiver due to lack of depth at wideout. He has remained there, wearing No. 11, while also taking some safety reps on the practice squad if needed.
Rookie practice squad receiver Dwayne Harris, who returned punts and kicks earlier in the season, was in line to join the active roster this week before he suffered a hamstring injury.
The Cowboys re-signed Loper to the roster for two days after placing kicker David Buehler (groin) on injured reserve.
David Buehler is on injured reserve, and that has owner Jerry Jones questioning the kickoff specialist’s preparation.
Buehler missed four games earlier this season after injuring his right groin. He returned for two games before re-injuring it in practice Wednesday. The Cowboys placed him on injured reserve Thursday.
“Let me just say this: I’m frustrated because you would expect players to… and I understand injury, but he has known all along how to prepare and how to get in shape and how to prepare himself and be ready to be a kicker,” Jones said on his weekly radio show on 105.3. “Now it’s frustrating to have your kicker injured. So he’s a valuable asset, especially with the rules as they are right now, we’re going to be playing some key away games out in the weather. We’d like to have him kicking in them because he is a better kickoff guy than [Dan] Bailey. So I’m very frustrated. It is his job to stay ready to play and prepare himself so those kinds of things for what he’s got to do don’t come up.”
Buehler said it will take about five weeks for his leg, which is black and blue, to heal.
“It sucks,” he said.
Buehler had 51 touchbacks in his first two seasons. He had nine this year.
The Cowboys had been the only team with two kickers, and now Bailey will handle both roles. He had six touchbacks in the four games he kicked off.
INJURED RESERVE: Dallas Cowboys kicker David Buehler reinjures his groin | Bailey ready | Roster move
Cowboys kickoff specialist David Buehler reinjured his groin late in Wednesday’s practice, prompting his move to injured reserve Thursday, coach Jason Garrett said. Buehler did not appear on the injury report Wednesday.
“David has been working through an injury really all year long,” Garrett said. “We felt like it was important for us to give him a chance to come back and kick, so we were very patient with him. I’m not so sure he was completely healthy. He was kicking yesterday and after practice he really aggravated it severely. He went down to get it checked out. We just feel it’s going to take him much too long to come back. You start factoring in how long is he going to be? How many games do we have left. We felt like that was the best decision for our team.”
The Dallas Cowboys had been the only team in the league to carry two kickers. Dan Bailey handles the field goals and extra points.
Buehler missed four games earlier this season with the injury to his right groin.
Kai Forbath began kicking this week. He remains on the non-football injury list, and the Cowboys have a couple more weeks before deciding what to do with him. Garrett said Thursday that kickoff specialist is not in Forbath’s immediate future.
“Kai is someone we really liked coming out of school and we haven’t seen a whole lot of him just because he has been hurt,” Garrett said. “He just really started kicking a couple of days ago for the first time. We’ll evaluate him and what his role will be as we go forward. I don’t know that we pinpoint him right now as a guy who is going to be our kickoff guy, though.”
Buehler had nine touchbacks in four games this season. Bailey has six touchbacks in the four games he has kicked off.
The Cowboys re-signed guard Daniel Loper to take Buehler’s spot on the 53-player roster, but they are expected to have to make another before the end of the week. Since Miles Austin will miss Sunday’s game, Dallas likely will activate practice-squad receiver Dwayne Harris. Harris played special teams in the first five games.
The Cowboys also cleared kicker Kai Forbath for practice after he opened training camp on the non-football injury list with a quadriceps injury. Forbath was signed Aug. 2 but has not kicked with the team. The Cowboys will have three weeks to activate him to the 53-man roster, release him or put him on injured reserve.