In shorts and sandals, Dan Carpenter was as relaxed as it gets Thursday.
And for good reason. He had a few days of golf and fishing ahead of him — part of the annual FinsWeekend, benefiting the Miami Dolphins Foundation.
Carpenter better enjoy it. Come August, his life would fray the strongest nerves.
There are two reasons why:
1. Wife Kaela is due with the couple’s first child, a son.
2. His very livelihood will be on the line.
Carpenter, the Dolphins’ kicker for the past five years, will be locked in a heated training camp battle with Caleb Sturgis, picked by Miami in last month’s draft.
Adding to the stress: The baby is due on a week of a road preseason game, which is when jobs are often won and lost.
“There will be a lot going on,” Carpenter said with a grin. “The child was planned. We were a little rusty with the timing.”
There’s no stopping it now — the kid or the competition. It’s not unusual for teams to bring in rookie kickers to push their incumbents. But most often, it’s an undrafted kid.
When a franchise invests a draft pick — particularly in the fifth round, as was the case with Sturgis — it means serious business, particularly for the veteran.
Asked if he was surprised by the news, Carpenter responded: “Yes and no.”
“I think I would have been more surprised if there wasn’t anyone here,” he added. “There’s nothing I can do about it except go out and compete the best I can and make the decision hard for the guys upstairs.”
Sturgis, a University of Florida product, made 70 of 88 kicks in his college career, including 77 percent of his attempts from beyond 40 yards last season.
Carpenter has struggled from that distance in recent years. He is 19 of his past 22 on field goals of 40 to 49 yards but 4 of 9 from 50 yards and beyond. Carpenter also missed three kicks last season that would have won games the Dolphins lost and is due $2.7 million in 2013, the final year of his contract.
Shortly after the Sturgis pick, Carpenter got a call from the coaching staff. The message was brief: Get ready to compete.
Carpenter can take solace knowing he has been through this before.
In 2008, he was in Sturgis’ position, the rookie battling veteran Jay Feely for the job.
“It wasn’t cutthroat or anything like that,” said Carpenter, a Pro Bowler in 2009. “[But] I’m not going to say it’s a friendship.
“For the moment, we’re teammates,” he added. “We’re going to act like we’re teammates and be civil to each other. He knows just like I know it’s going to be a competition.”
On Thursday, Carpenter was more focused on a different kind of contest — the charity fishing outing set for Saturday morning.
He took home first place his rookie year, hauling in a 31-pound wahoo. The next year, he hooked a king fish the same size — or so he says. It got away before the crew could haul it in. There will be no fish stories come August. Either he outkicks Sturgis and keeps his job, or he doesn’t and doesn’t.
“Every team has just one kicker,” Carpenter said. “It’s not like quarterback where you can hang around and be a backup for the rest of your life. Being a kicker, you’re either a starter or you’re not.”