After being cut by the Browns in Week 2, kicker Zane Gonzalez waited almost 10 weeks for a second chance and then delivered in the clutch for the Cardinals.
TEMPE, Ariz. — When Zane Gonzalez jogged toward the 34-yard-line at Lambeau Field on Sunday, he found himself in a position he knows all too well.
Game tied. A win resting on his right foot.
It’s also a position that cost Gonzalez his job earlier this season. He was cut by the Cleveland Browns after missing two field goals and two extra points in a 21-18 Week 2 loss to the New Orleans Saints a week after a potential game-winning field goal was blocked in overtime against the Pittsburgh Steelers, leading to a tie.
For almost 10 weeks, Gonzalez was unemployed as he rehabbed and recovered from a groin injury. But on Nov. 20, with Phil Dawson‘s hip injury preventing him from getting a full extension on his kicks, the Arizona Cardinals gave Gonzalez a second chance and signed him to their practice squad. Coach Steve Wilks liked Gonzalez’s leg strength and his accuracy — despite his early-season struggles.
The second-year player out of Arizona State was promoted to the active roster on Nov. 26, when Dawson went on injured reserve.
On Sunday, with the Cardinals and Green Bay Packers tied at 17-17 and 1 minute, 45 seconds left in the game, Gonzalez found his mark on the field and lined up for redemption.
He nailed it, and the Cardinals then hung on for a 20-17 win, their first in Green Bay since 1949.
“It’s amazing,” Gonzalez said after the game. “Especially for this team and this organization, the way they let me come in here with open arms. I’m just happy to be able to do this for them and get a team win.”
And he did it while still dealing with his groin injury. Gonzalez said after the game it’s about “80, 90” percent healed. His trainer texted him right afterward, congratulating him on the big kick but reminding him to use ice.
Gonzalez said he doesn’t think about his struggles in Cleveland anymore. He’s leaving that up to others.
But his feat — kicking the winner in his first game with the Cardinals after everything he went through in September — didn’t go unnoticed.
“Everyone has a very short fuse with kickers nowadays,” quarterback Josh Rosen said. “I think it’s been a rough year for all of them. It’s awesome to be resilient, to move cities about a week-and-a-half, two weeks ago and come kick the game-winner in probably the most hostile conditions and environment that you can [have].”
It showed Wilks who he has in Gonzalez.
“It says a lot about him as a person,” Wilks said. “Also, just to come into the situation that he did, not being here the whole time, replacing Phil, who is a proven guy in this league for a long period of time, and he did a great job. It says a lot about him as a person.”
While Gonzalez’s time in Cleveland wasn’t exactly smooth — he was 15-for-20 on field goals last season and 2-for-5 this season — it did prepare him to kick in snow and swirling wind. Still, he called the conditions for both of his field goals and both his extra points in Green Bay “brutal.”
He spent his pregame routine and halftime warm-up trying to figure out just how to kick in those kinds of wintry conditions, which Gonzalez ranked among the worst he has seen.
When he launched the game-winner, Gonzalez just kept his head down and hoped. It felt good coming off his foot, he said. And when he finally looked up and saw it go between the uprights, “that was a pretty good feeling,” he said.
Redemption. In the best possible way.