Pro Bowl Saints kicker Wil Lutz says he’s cleared to play in 2022

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This is big: New Orleans Saints kicker Wil Lutz announced on Instagram Monday that he has been officially cleared to play in 2022, which comes as a relief after a frustrating yearlong recovery from a core muscle injury — citing “multiple surgeries and setbacks,” that delayed his return to the field, Lutz has now finally been given the green light to fully participate in Saints summer practices leading up to training camp.

That’s big for a team that experienced as many kicking woes as New Orleans. Four different place kickers got into games for the Saints last year, connecting on 25 of 30 field goal tries (making just one of four tries from 50-plus yards) with a cringeworthy 31-of-38 line on extra point attempts. For comparison, Lutz has hit 142 of his 164 career field goals, or 86.6%; Aldrick Rosas, Brian Johnson, Cody Parkey, and Brett Maher only got to 83.3% as a team in 2021. On point-after tries, Lutz has made 253 of 260 kicks, or 97.3%, in the NFL. That group combined for a success rate of 81.6%.

Those are eye-popping numbers, and it does a lot to illustrate just how rough the situation was for New Orleans without Lutz. To put it another way, Lutz has never scored fewer than 126 points in a single season with the Saints. Maher (58), Johnson (29), Rosas (16), and Parkey (3) totaled 106. In a year when the Saints posted a pedestrian 9-8 record and a mediocre scoring differential (+29), it’s hard to believe having Lutz just matching his career-low and scoring 20 more points than his replacements wouldn’t have made a big difference.

Now healthy, let’s hope Lutz can do more than meet expectations — having him return to form and become a weapon for the Saints in the kicking game again would be vital for them in 2022. Beyond the ongoing recoveries for Michael Thomas and Jameis Winston, there may not be a more important injury situation for New Orleans to monitor than Lutz’s. Hopefully they can each also receive clearance for a full workload sooner rather than later.

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