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Bills sign Collins Hill grad Coutu

The Buffalo Bills signed Collins Hill graduate Brandon Coutu to a professional contract Wednesday as a replacement for injured kicker Dave Rayner, who they put on season-ending injured reserve.

Coutu had been in Buffalo just over a month ago for a kicking tryout, along with Rayner and two other kickers to see who would replace starter Rian Lindell whose season was also cut short by injury.

Current Buffalo Bills, and former Georgia Tech, head coach Chan Gailey said during his weekly press conference that Rayner was put on IR after “(Rayner) came up sore again Monday and he’s not sure he can be 100 percent.” Rayner had been dealing with a sore hip and missed two field goals last weekend vs. Denver. Gailey said that “you can’t take a chance when you walk out there if it’s one kick and done on a cold day or something like that, you can’t afford to have that so that’s why we had to make the move.”

Coutu comes to Buffalo having taken the long road as a potential NFL kicker. Following a star-studded high school career at Collins Hill, Coutu was given preferred walk-on status at the University of Georgia. Coutu made 53 of 66 field goals (six over over 50 yards, including a 58-yarder) while at UGA. He is still the only UGA kicker to finish with a career field-goal percentage above 80, as well the only kicker to ever finish his career perfect on PAT attempts.

In 2008, the Seattle Seahawks made Coutu the 238th overall draft choice in the seventh round. He was drafted to push veteran kicker Olindo Mare and possibly replace him. Coutu made the Seahawks team after going 7-for-7 in the preseason of 2008, but was left inactive for all 16 games, and did not register any kicks.

In 2009, after another intense camp battle with Mare, Coutu was released from Seattle on the final day of roster cuts. He then spent some time out of football, but earlier this year the Seahawks came calling again after Mare signed with the Carolina Panthers. Coutu once again found himself in camp.

Midway through training camp the Seahawks released Coutu, but he landed on his feet when he signed with the Las Vegas Locomotives of the UFL. The Locomotives made it all the way to UFL Championship this year, falling to the Virginia Destroyers in the championship game.

Shortly after UFL season ended, Coutu was courted by a number of interested teams, and had tryouts with both the Bills and Miami Dolphins. He eventually ended up as a Jacksonville Jaguar when the team signed him to the practice squad on Dec. 12, but he was released five days later. The Bills moved quickly to sign Coutu after that, adding him to their active roster.

This one-week opportunity for Coutu will be his first real game action in the NFL, and will be a true test of his ability, given the cold conditions he can expect to face on Sunday in Foxboro against the New England Patriots. If Coutu can show coach Gailey that he has what it takes, he could be given an opportunity to become Buffalo’s permanent kicker for the 2012 season. Lindell’s contract runs out after this season, and he’s only gone 29 of 36 (80.5%) on field goals over the last two years.

Matthew Elder runs a website dedicated to scouting prospective college players for the NFL Draft and the Buffalo Bills called BuffaloBillsDraft.com.

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