The Dallas Cowboys are preparing for life without kicker Dan Bailey for at least the next couple of weeks.
Coach Jason Garrett said Bailey would be out at least the next two games after sustaining a groin injury while warming up in the first half Sunday in San Francisco.
The Cowboys are expected to work out three kickers — Mike Nugent, Jason Myers and Sam Irwin-Hill — on Tuesday. None of them have the pedigree of Bailey, the most accurate kicker in NFL history with an 89.9 percent career field goal percentage, but the Cowboys hope to gain quick confidence in whichever direction they go.
“You want a guy who is reliable,” Garrett said. “It’s really important at that position you have a guy you can trust and count on. You want that throughout your whole team at every position, but that’s a very valuable position.
“You’re going to put the fortunes of your team in that guy’s hands, or on his foot, and you want a guy you can trust and rely on. Experience matters, but you don’t want to make it all about that. You want to choose the best guy. But reliability and how much you can trust them is certainly a big factor.”
Nugent is the most experienced option. He was beat out by Aldrick Rosas for the New York Giants kicking job before the season, but has made 80.8 percent of his field goals in 12 seasons.
The Jacksonville Jaguars parted ways with Myers last week after he missed four of 15 attempts.
The Cowboys have the most familiarity with Irwin-Hill, who was with the team in training camp and among the final cuts. He went 7-for-7 on point-after attempts and 2-of-3 on field goal tries in the preseason, but has yet to kick in a regular-season game.
The importance of the position can’t be overstated. This is a team that played in 10 games, including the playoff loss to Green Bay, decided by one score or less last season. Two of the past three games this season have been decided by one score or less.
“We’re hopeful we can sign a guy tomorrow to replace Dan who can come in and we can have the same kind of confidence in him,” Garrett said. “Now, we don’t have the experience with this guy, whoever he is, but hopefully he’s a guy who’s shown he’s capable of knocking the ball through the pipes in an NFL game and in pressurized situations.
“You try to be as objective as you can in your decision-making as you go, but there is no question we have a long history with Dan, a history of success. There’s no question it will be a little bit different in some way.”
Sunday at Washington will mark the first game Bailey has missed with an injury. He has played in every game with the Cowboys since 2011.
Bailey’s injury forced the Cowboys to turn to safety Jeff Heath for kicking duties the final three quarters against San Francisco. And Heath made history by connecting on 2-of-3 extra points, becoming the first non-kicker to score at least two PATs in a game since Houston Oilers linebacker Ted Thompson in 1980.
For as admirable of a job and feel-good story as Heath was, the Cowboys now must face the reality of being without Bailey with potentially close games coming up at Washington and against the 5-2 Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 5.
“It does put a little bit of a strain [on your roster], you have to make a decision at another position in order to keep two kickers,” Garrett said. “That’s not natural for a team to do. But we don’t think the injury’s that severe to put [Bailey] on IR. He’s certainly someone we’re going to keep up on the roster.
“We do have to get another kicker in here to function this week.”
Cowboys at Redskins
3:25 p.m. Sunday, KDFW/4