Chandler Catanzaro striving to be “perfect” this year for Cardinals

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Chandler Catanzaro’s first season in the NFL went about as perfectly as anyone could’ve imagined. He signed on with the team as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Clemson, and he proceeded to beat out kicker Jay Feely for the starting job with his outstanding work in training camp and in the preseason.

Oh, but Catanzaro didn’t stop there with his unbelievable play. He’d go on to hit his first 17 field goal attempts, setting a new NFL rookie record in the process.

Catanzaro would also be named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week twice, becoming just the fourth player in team history to win multiple Player of the Week awards in his rookie season (Patrick Peterson in 2011, Bill Gramatica in 2001, Ron Moore in 1993).

Overall, Pro Football Focus had Catanzaro ranked No. 5 among all NFL kickers last season. He hit on 87.9-percent of his field goal attempts (29 of 33), which put him 11th among all kickers.

No wonder why Catanzaro is so pumped to get to his second training camp with Arizona. He’s ready to make some more memories this season.

“I’m at that point where I’m itching to get back,” Catanzaro told NBC Sports Radio’s Rich Gray on “The Blitz” on Tuesday. “I’m ready to get back to work. OTAs went well, everything went well, just counting down the days (until) that first preseason game coming up (Kansas City Chiefs, University of Phoenix Stadium, Aug. 15), and I’m looking forward to seeing everybody this Friday and (getting) camp going too.”

Catanzaro used two words to describe his time with the Cardinals last season: “blur” and “whirlwind.” Things, like plays in football, went bang-bang for Catanzaro, and he hardly had time to catch his breath, and take in what was going on in his life, once he got the word that he was going to be the full-time kicker for the Arizona Cardinals.

“It kind of felt like I was dreaming out there my first year, and I was living my dream, but now I get to look back, and look at where I need to improve upon this last year, and improve this year, and build on last year,” Catanzaro said.

Just to throw out some more stats: Catanzaro totaled 114 points (29 field goals, 27 PATs) last year for Arizona, smashing Gramatica’s old record of 73 points in the doing. He was perfect on extra points, but those four field goal misses is what’s stuck with him during the offseason. That’s something he’s determined to not let happen again this season.

“I’m not trying to miss, I want to go and be perfect this year, so I definitely left myself room for improvement, and on kickoffs,” Catanzaro said. “There’s always room to improve. I’m just looking to go into (training) camp, and take it day-by-day, and step-by-step, and hopefully have a really solid season this year, and help the team win some games.”

Catanzaro is going to be faced with an even bigger challenge this year with the extra points being moved back to the 15-yard line, essentially making it a 33-yard field goal attempt.

Catanzaro liked where the ball was snapped last year, but at the same time, he says he’s ready for that challenge of trying to keep his consecutive PAT streak going.

“We’re professionals. We’re professionals at what we do. Our job is to make it look easy. If they’re going to move it back, then I’m looking forward to the challenge this year,” Catanzaro said.

Kickers have a reputation for not doing much other than taking care of field goals, extra points and kickoffs, which are huge tasks in and of themselves. Being a rookie, Catanzaro decided to go above and beyond to show his new teammates that he deserved the same amount of respect that every other player in the locker room got.

“I was in there in the weight room, grinding with them, running sprints out there with them, doing everything I could to let them know I was there to work,” Catanzaro said. “I wanted to be an athlete first, and I think I take that and use that as my weekly preparation for games.”

Catanzaro says he would hit the weights, do some stretching and yoga, and ride the stationary bike to keep himself in playing shape during the week, which is all separate from what he did with the team.

“As far as mental preparation goes, I do some visualization techniques leading up to the game; just visualizing myself performing at the highest level, so when game time comes, I’ve already kind of rehearsed it in my head,” Catanzaro said.

With the help of Cardinals’ special teams coordinator Amos Jones, Catanzaro will continue to stay on a “strict routine” – the same routine that got him to where he is today, which is living out his dreams of playing in the NFL.

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