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Cut may be end for Elam


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POSTED: Wednesday, December 02, 2009

ATLANTA » Jason Elam figured he was down to his last miss.

He was right.

The Atlanta Falcons released the 17-year veteran yesterday, having finally run out of patience with a kicker who had been one of the NFL's most accurate but struggled through a mystifying slump this season.

Elam was just 8-for-15 on field-goal attempts from at least 30 yards, a success rate that was simply unacceptable—especially for a team contending in the NFC playoff race.

“;To be honest with you, when I walked off the field after the last three games, I thought that was it,”; Elam said when reached on his cell phone. “;I've always been able to kick myself out of these things, but it just wasn't happening for me. It was a bad November.”;

It also was an unceremonious ending for a 39-year-old kicker who is tied for the longest field goal in NFL history (63 yards), made more than 81 percent of his career attempts, and earned three Pro Bowl appearances during a 15-season tenure with the Denver Broncos, helping them win back-to-back Super Bowls in the 1990s.

The Hawaii graduate signed with the Falcons last year, returning to the area where he grew up, and played a big role in Atlanta's surprising run to the playoffs. He made 29 of 31 field goals and all 42 of his extra-point attempts.

But something went wrong this season, and it was apparent right from the start. Elam struggled in the preseason, missed an extra point in the regular-season opener and botched crucial kicks in losses to Carolina and the New York Giants.

“;This is not my dream ending, but I feel like it was a pretty good dream career,”; he said. “;I never anticipated it lasting this long. I wish it was different circumstances that I was going out. But I gave them everything I've got.”;

The Falcons (6-5) insisted that one miss didn't cost Elam his job. But the final straw came Sunday, when he was wide left on a 43-yarder with 6 1/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter that might have led to another Atlanta loss.

The Falcons rallied to pull out a 20-17 victory over the woeful Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but they couldn't afford to cut it so close again, not with vital games coming up against Philadelphia and unbeaten New Orleans.

Atlanta signed Matt Bryant, who has kicked with four NFL teams, most recently spending four seasons with Tampa Bay.

While Elam said he'll take a few days to decide on whether he wants to pursue a job with another team, he sure sounded as though he's ready to call it a career.

“;I just want to be remembered as a consistent kicker,”; he said. “;That's what I prided myself on. It wasn't the 63-yarder. I didn't want to be known just for hitting the longest field goal.”;