CINCINNATI, Ohio – In a whirlwind of preparation, Matt Ammendola has been extremely busy this week.
It’s a good kind of busy for the veteran kicker after being out of work since January when he was on the Green Bay Packers’ practice squad.
One year after filling in for one preseason game when Texans regular kicker Ka’imi Fairbairn was sidelined with a tight leg, Ammendola is back with the AFC South franchise on another short-term work assignment. With Fairbairn out roughly three weeks with a strained quadriceps, Ammendola was signed to the practice squad. He’ll be elevated for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
And Ammendola has been working hard on his timing with long snapper Jon Weeks and punter-holder Cameron Johnston.
“Awesome, I’m just really enjoying the process with the guys,” Ammendola said. “Cam and Jon are professionals and they’re fitting me right in with the schedule. It’s a blessing to be here. It’s been over a year and whatnot, but it’s been great to be back. They want to fit me in as fast as possible.”
Ammendola was signed by the Texans to kick during the preseason last year. He made a 45-yard field goal and missed a 31-yard field goal against the San Francisco 49ers.
That background with the Texans was a large factor in signing him again.
“That was a big part of it, just having familiarity with whoever it was going to work through and then bringing someone in right away who has worked with the snapper and holder,” Texans special teams coordinator Frank Ross said. “That part went into the decision making and familiarity so just trying to get someone up to speed as soon as possible and repetitions because you put a price on those experiences of how many reps can you get by Sunday.”
Ammendola, 26, has had stints with the Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, Texans, Kansas City Chiefs, Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers. He has made 18 of 26 career field goals with a long kick of 49 yards.
Ammendola played collegiately at Oklahoma State. The Pennsylvania native made 20 of 26 field goals as a senior.
With the Jets, he was cut in 2021 after hitting 13 of 19 field goals and 14 of 15 extra points through 11 games. He was signed to the practice squad after being released, then signed to a reserve-future deal before being released.
Patience is tough to maintain when you’re unemployed, but Ammendola has continued to stay ready for the next opportunity.
“Yeah, I’ve got to have that positive optimistic mindset,” Ammendola said. “You’ve got to be ready for that workout and kill it. You’ve got to keep working and trust the process that God has a plan for you. You don’t know when that time comes, so you’ve got to be ready.”
Fairbairn left the game Sunday during a 39-37 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week and was replaced by emergency kicker Dare Ogunbowale, a running back who made a key 29-yard field goal and handled kickoffs for the entire second half.
“He’s a stud of an athlete,” Ammendola said. “To do what he did, it’s unheard of. He definitely put on a show and I’m excited to come in after that.”
Fairbairn is having an outstanding season, making 18 of 19 field goals this year.
The excitement of what Ogunbowale still hasn’t faded for Ross.
“Was told ‘Hey, have you ever seen Dare kick?’ and then looked up the video of him kicking at practice in Wisconsin, so gave him a few shots at that last year and he’s always kicking around a soccer ball,” Ross said. “Just a world class athlete, in my opinion. To go out there and then the poise, just a phenomenal moment and hopefully that scene is going to live in his brain forever because man that was special. Don’t want that to happen again, but that was special.
“Thank God it came out in a win because you don’t want that sucker to happen in a losing game, but that will be up there and I won’t ever forget that. I don’t have a top 10 or anything just yet, but that’s living rent free in my head for a long time.”
How much time did they have to prepare Ogubowale? Roughly four minutes.
“In the literal moment and then hasn’t kicked off the sticks in a while,” Ross said. “That’s just an absolute credit to what a talent he is, honestly. Having the calmness is just incredible.”
Many have asked why didn’t Johnston kick the field goal. It’s because he has an Australian rules football background.
“It’s not a soccer player, so they’ve never hit anything off the ground before,” Ross said. “It’s a totally different leg path and leg swing and then the fact that we did have a guy who has soccer playing experience and the ability to kick the ball then you’d rather work with that same operation of Cam holding and then Dare kicking, so every team is different.”
Aaron Wilson is a Texans and NFL reporter for KPRC 2 and click2houston.com