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Connor Barth just kept kicking


ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- **For the NFL kicker, Sunday -- or Monday, or Thursday, or Saturday, depending on when the game arrives -- is the biggest day of the week. For the unemployed kicker, it's Tuesday, the off-day for most teams.

Tuesday is tryout day. It's the day of the week when Connor Barth knew his chance at re-starting his career would come after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released him at the end of the preseason. And when a week passed without a tryout -- as they usually did -- he made sure he kicked anyway, knowing that was the day around which his career hopes revolved.

"I would make sure to kick on a Tuesday and then on a Thursday, probably, and then how I felt depending on how many reps I kicked that week I might kick on a Sunday," Barth said.

"I wanted to treat it like I was still in season. So I just tried to kick two or three times a week, stay in shape and when a call did come, be ready to go and give it my best in the tryout."

Two teams called him. The first, Detroit, flew him in for a tryout earlier this season, when they cycled through kickers in the first month of the season.

The second was the Broncos, who brought him and former Cardinals kicker Jay Feely in for a tryout Tuesday. The two kickers worked out together in 2008, and both share a connection to Tampa: Barth played there, and Feely grew up there.

"Jay and I have a long history," Barth said. "We've kicked against each other a bunch. He's a great kicker and we just had fun with it. Everyone likes competition and you just have to go out there and treat it as another day kicking. Luckily [we] had nice conditions and I hit the ball well."

Well enough to earn the job -- and show that he was all the way back from the torn Achilles tendon suffered in a charity basketball game that ended his 2013 season five months before it would have begun.

"No basketball anymore," Barth said. "I'm going to stick to golf or watching a sport instead."

The injury changed the trajectory of his career. After a subsequent contract restructure, the Buccaneers brought in Patrick Murray for competition this summer, and the younger kicker won the job.

Connor Barth, who previously played for Kansas City and Tampa Bay, signed with the Broncos on Tuesday.

Barth was among the most qualified of kickers out of work when the season began, but he could only wait on injury or ineffectiveness to strike. Meanwhile, he dealt with questions about when he would return to the NFL -- "every day," he said, even from his parents.

"There is one kicker and punter and snapper. There are no backups so someone unfortunately has to get injured, which you don't ever want to happen, or someone doesn't do well," said Barth. "It's always longer than you want it to be but I just stayed ready and I knew something would hopefully break and it did here."

Until that point, Barth kicked whenever -- and wherever -- he could.

""I actually have a good friend who used to be a G.A. special teams coach in Tampa and he works at IMG (Academy) in Bradenton, (Fla.)," Barth said. " So I was able to go down there a few times a week and they have very nice facilities down there."

Barth also kicked at his high school in Wilmington, N.C. But he didn't always need that.

"All I really needed was a light pole to kick at because if I can hit a light pole, it's a lot skinnier than an upright," he said. "I had a family member pass away and I was in Buffalo and I kicked at a light pole somewhere on an open field. So anywhere I can just have some grass, I can get some work in so that is what I've been doing."

And it was enough to get him another chance -- and a shot to wear the jersey number 1, which he last wore in high school. Then, and now, it is a homage to Jason Elam, the Broncos' all-time leading scorer.

"I used to emulate my form after him," Barth said. "He's a legendary kicker here and it was also my high school number so I wanted to, as a kicker, do him proud and represent him because he had done such a great job for this organization. I knew it was his number and as a fellow kicker and a guy I looked up to its cool. Hopefully he is OK with me wearing his number."

Hours later, Elam tweeted his support:

And now, Barth can forget about Tuesdays and focus on Sundays, when there'll be plenty to worry about, starting with the Chiefs' formidable kickoff returners, Knile Davis and De'Anthony Thomas.

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