Buffalo's youth movement continued on Monday when the Bills released longtime kicker Rian Lindell.
Lindell, the most accurate kicker in franchise history, was let go after 10 years in Buffalo. His release means that rookie Dustin Hopkins has won the team's kicking competition.
"It's always tough when you have to release a player like Rian Lindell," coach Doug Marrone said. "A true professional that's obviously been with the organization for quite some time. And I have a lot of respect for him."
Lindell leaves Buffalo with a field goal percentage of 83.3. He connected on 225 of 270 field-goal attempts here.
Lindell's status with the Bills had been in question the past two years. Buffalo has drafted kickers in each of the past two drafts, Hopkins and John Potter.
Hopkins, 22, had significantly more power on his kicks throughout training camp than Lindell, 36, who relied more on his accuracy and consistency from shorter distances. And Marrone felt that Hopkins took control of the competition as camp progressed.
"I think in the past 10 days Dustin has performed better," he said, "so we made a decision to go with Dustin."
Lindell was the longest-tenured Bill prior to his release. He joined the team as a free agent in 2003 after spending his first three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks. He had a slow start to his Bills career, converting 17 of 24 field goal attempts his first year.
In Buffalo's history books
But he recovered, and his name is at or near the top of most Bills kicking records, as a result. He holds a franchise record for consecutive PATs (225) and is second in teams scoring with 980 points.
A sixth-round pick out of Florida State, Hopkins had mixed emotions on the release.
"I find myself kind of in a paradox," Hopkins said. "This is something I've worked my whole life for ... but at the same time, it's kind of the bad part of pro sports, parting with a guy that I've got a lot of respect for and have admired watching for a long time, and has meant so much to the community."
One of Lindell's first actions after being released was to congratulate his competitor and former teammate.
"The first guy that I heard from today before I heard anything was Rian just saying he was wishing me luck and he wanted the best for me and he was happy for me," Hopkins said. "I think that's just an accurate representation of the kind of guy he is, just not bitter or anything like that but genuinely happy for a guy that he's only known a few weeks."
Hopkins has impressed with his leg strength ever since joining the Bills, but he has battled consistency issues. In the preseason, he has connected on all four field-goal attempts, and has three touchbacks on seven tries.
"I've felt a lot more comfortable here recently just with the tempo and getting used to practices and games," Hopkins said. "For the most part, my mechanics are good. I'm breaking down film and making sure I'm documenting why I feel like I'm feeling better and being successful. And I think that's all just part of trying to be a pro."