FOXBOROUGH — No excuses and no sad faces. Stephen Gostkowski knows the deal.
The Patriots’ fourth-most tenured player — behind only Tom Brady, Vince Wilfork, and Logan Mankins — isn’t about to throw a pity party over his struggles during the preseason.
Through two games, Gostkowski is 2 of 5 on field goal attempts, going 1 of 3 against the Philadelphia Eagles and 1 of 2 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, missing a 50-yard attempt Friday night after two penalties on the offense.
He has fought through tough stretches before, particularly last season when he missed a potential game-winning attempt against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 2 and then followed up two weeks later with two more missed attempts against the Buffalo Bills.
It’s with this in mind that he vents.
“I mean, every game has its different set of circumstances,” he said. “Overall this camp, I came in feeling really good, really confident. I’ve actually been hitting the ball really well. Day in and day out, I’ve shown good consistency.
“Unfortunately, it hasn’t spilled over into the preseason games, which is very frustrating. Especially for me, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. I’m very hard on myself and anytime that I screw up or feel like I’ve cost the team points or let the team down, it’s especially upsetting.”
Gostkowski has firm backing from Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who said he expects the eight-year pro to continue to work hard.
“He’s kicked the ball well and hit the ball very solidly and consistently,” Belichick told reporters Saturday. “I know that he’ll continue to work hard to do everything that he can, and so will the other people involved in the operation – snapping and holding, however that turns out. I’m confident that he’s one of the best kickers in the league.”
But none of that is what Gostkowski listens to, preferring to ignore all the noise and focus on putting in the work. He ended up finishing the 2012 season 29 of 35, tied for the eighth-most field goals in the NFL.
“I’m not the kind of guy to panic or to make excuses or worry too much about things like that,” he said. “If you play this game long enough, you’re going to go through many ups and downs.
“I’ve seen the best of the best have struggles before and come back and are still kicking. It’s a tough job. It’s very easy when it’s going good. And it can be tough and lonely when it’s going bad. You just gotta pull yourself out of whatever struggles you’re in.
“I missed a couple of long kicks. It happens. Should I and could I have made ’em? Of course. But I didn’t and you just go back and look at it, refocus, and go back to work. And that’s all you can do.
“I feel like I put in 100 percent day in and day out. I’m not ashamed of screwing up when I put that kind of work in. Am I upset and do I get down on myself? Of course. No one feels worse about messing up than I do.
“But when I go back and look at it, I’m doing everything I can. I don’t feel like there’s many that work as hard as our special teams crew. I don’t feel like there’s many teams that kick as much as we do. And it’ll pay off in the long run, going through some struggles early, if I can turn it around.”
The struggles are cyclical, Gostkowski said. He’s had them in high school, college, and throughout his career. It’s not something he can pinpoint.
“Sometimes there’s no explanation,” he said. “You’d like to think you know all the answers.
“You know, that 50-yarder, if it’s a half a foot inside, it’s in. So that’s what you’re working with and those are the things that come up. So I just keep my head down, I shut up, and I try to do my job.”
With a laugh, Gostkowski added, “People only talk to me when I screw up.”