- The Washington Times
Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The Washington Football Team is back on the kicking carousel. 

The Burgundy and Gold signed kicker Brian Johnson off the Chicago Bears’ practice squad Tuesday as Joey Slye suffered a hamstring injury in Monday’s 17-15 win over the Seattle Seahawks that will sideline him for multiple weeks. Slye got hurt before halftime when he chased a Seahawks defender on a blocked extra-point attempt that was returned for a score. 

Slye was already Washington’s third kicker of the season. He replaced Chris Blewitt, who held the job for a few weeks after the team released its longtime kicker, Dustin Hopkins. In three games, Slye was steady for the Burgundy and Gold — making all six of his field-goal attempts and five of his six extra points.

But now, Washington will move to Johnson — a 22-year-old who has spent time with the Bears and the New Orleans Saints. He appeared in four games this year for the Saints, making all eight field goals but missing three of his eight extra-point attempts. Johnson also holds local ties as he went to Virginia Tech and Gonzaga College High School in the District. 

“We talked about (finding a new kicker) at halftime,” Washington coach Ron Rivera said. “I basically got the word out to our personnel department that we need to start looking, coming up with some kickers’ names, and then after the game, we got together. … (Johnson) is a guy that we believe we can bring in and have him be apart of what we’re trying to do, while Joey heals up.

“We’ll see how it goes.” 

Rivera said an MRI confirmed that Slye “did pull his hamstring.” Hours after the coach’s press conference, the team placed Slye on injured reserve — meaning the kicker will miss a minimum of three games. 

Johnson had been with the Bears since last week, days after the Saints released him for missing three PATs in a two-game span. Two of Johnson’s missed extra points were particularly hurtful for the Saints during a Nov. 14 loss to the Tennessee Titans — a game New Orleans lost by two (23-21). 

At Virginia Tech, Johnson made 76.1% of his field-goal tries and 100% of his extra points. He actually holds the school record for most consecutive PAT attempts with 119. 

Washington will look for Johnson to provide consistency at the position. Though Slye was solid, the team struggled earlier in the year with shaky outings from Hopkins and Blewitt. Blewitt, in particular, was just 2 of 5 on field goals — with all three of his misses being blocked. 

Before, Washington held private tryouts to fill its kicker vacancy. But with the short turnaround from Monday’s game — the team plays Las Vegas on Sunday — the team went ahead and signed Johnson off the Bears’ practice squad. 

Rivera said he spoke with personnel executives Martin Mayhew, Marty Hurney, Eric Stokes and Chris Polian about replacement options for Slye. He also discussed the matter with special teams coordinator Nate Kaczor, who Rivera said was “very familiar” with Johnson.

“The biggest thing we want to make sure is we get the same type of kicker (as Slye),” Rivera said. “A guy who will get the ball elevated quickly. And a guy who can make kicks from about the 52-yarders and in. That’s pretty much what you hope to have.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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