Ron Rivera's experience in Carolina yields his patience with kicker Dustin Hopkins

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Rivera remains patient with Hopkins, draws from Carolina years originally appeared on NBC Sports Washington

Washington isn't quitting on Dustin Hopkins as its kicker – at least not yet. 

Even after Hopkins missed two extra points in Atlanta, Washington coach Ron Rivera maintains the same confidence in the placekicker he has shown throughout the offseason and first four weeks of the 2021 NFL season. 

"Because if I get off on him it could get worse," Rivera said. "That's just the way it has to be." 

The Burgundy and Gold signed kicker Chris Blewitt to the practice squad on Tuesday, but Rivera assured media it was only "precautionary" as opposed to building any sort of competition for Hopkins. 

Coming off his career-worst season, his only season kicking under 80%, Hopkins has continued to have and up-and-down season. A couple missed field goals in preseason were chalked up to timing issues and a new snapper. In Week 2, Hopkins was given a second chance and nailed the game-winning field goal after a Giants offsides rendered his first slip-up meaningless. A week later, Hopkins recovered one of the weirdest kickoffs in NFL history. Sunday's misses in Mercedes Benz Stadium were his first since he missed a 55-yarder against the Chargers. 

Despite the Blewitt signing, Rivera wants to keep Hopkins in a confident mindset to avoid a revolving door of kickers. 

"It's not like you're going to go out there and pluck a kicker that's going to come in and kick over 80-something percent, that's the thing," Rivera said. "Now, you want a little more consistency, especially with the extra points, and he's working on it. Hopefully he'll correct it and we'll go from there."

Rivera's days with the Panthers taught him a level of patience when dealing with kicker struggles. Carolina burned through four ineffective kickers before landing Graham Gano in November 2012. Coincidentally, it was Washington who cut Gano in favor of Billy Cundiff that allowed Rivera and his staff to finally land a stable placekicker. 

Gano went on to kick for the Panthers the next seven seasons, but not without the ups and downs that Hopkins has also been going through.  

"It's crazy because if you look at what Graham did throughout the Super Bowl year, he was very, very good, very consistent, did a lot of great things," Rivera said. "We go into the 2016 season and he gets sporadic. He had a rough year. But we stayed with Graham and in '17 he comes out and sets the record."

Gano was solid his first few seasons, including a superb 2013 campaign in which he sported a 88.9% field goal percentage, but the Panthers' Super Bowl appearance season in 2015 is when he made a name for himself as a consistent kicker and led the league in point-after attempt makes. In 2016, Gano had himself his worst statistical year since his last year in Washington. 

Then, Gano refocused, missed just one field goal attempt (29-of-30) and set the record for what was then the longest field goal in NFL history from 63 yards out. He repaid Rivera's trust and investment in him and then some. 

Now, Rivera hopes the same type of patience could pay off for Hopkins. 

"So you look at players and you try to get a feel and an understanding, but sometimes if you quit too early on a guy it comes back to get you too," Rivera said.