New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski has struggled this season, missing four extra-point attempts. Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH. Mass. — The Patriots’ kicking situation went from troublesome to worse.

New England announced Wednesday afternoon that Stephen Gostkowski was placed on injured reserve, likely ending his season and giving an explanation for his struggles through four games.

According to the Boston Herald, Gostkowski has been dealing with a long-term hip injury. ESPN reported Gostkowski will undergo season-ending surgery on the hip and is expected to return in 2020.

There were also reports of numerous kickers working out for the team on Wednesday. No player other than Gostkowski has kicked in a countable game for New England since 2010.

The 35-year-old kicker has struggled this season. A four-time Pro Bowler and three-time All-Pro, Gostkowski has made just 11 of 15 of his extra-point attempts and 7 of 8 field-goal attempts. Overall, Gostkowski has missed five kicks in the last three games. In a 16-10 win at Buffalo on Sunday, he missed an extra-point attempt wide right.

“Yeah, I think as a team, there’s a lot of things that we can do better, so we’re working every area to improve,” Coach Bill Belichick said when asked about the field-goal unit. “I think we can improve in all three phases of the game, and within those phases there’s a lot of things we can work on there as well. We need to work on everything. It’s barely October. We’ve got a long way to go.”

Gostkowski will be eligible to return in Week 14, but it remains to be seen if that’ll be possible. It will not be an option if he has hip surgery, plus the Patriots are allowed to bring back only two players from IR. Wide receiver
N’Keal Harry, offensive tackle Isaiah Wynn and fullback James Develin are candidates to return.

Potential replacements for Gostkowski, according to ESPN, include veterans Kai Forbath and Mike Nugent. The 32-year-old Forbath has seven years of NFL experience with four teams. He last kicked for Jacksonville in 2018, making 4 of 5 field goals over three games.

Nugent, 37, has 14 seasons of experience and last kicked for Oakland in 2018. He also appeared in three games, going 6 of 6 on field goals.

This isn’t the first time the Patriots have dealt with an injury to Gostkowski. In 2010, the kicker suffered a thigh injury in Week 9 and was subsequently placed on injured reserve. Shayne Graham took over and connected on 12 of 12 field goals and was 35 of 37 on extra-point attempts.

Gostkowski has led the NFL in scoring in five seasons (2008, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015). The NFL record is six. He entered the season 12th all-time in scoring.

Gostkowski is the Patriots’ all-time leading scorer (1,771), with Adam Vinateiri (1,158) in second place. He also owns the franchise record for longest field goal with a 62-yard boot in 2017. From 2006-16, Gostkowski made 478 consecutive extra points – an NFL record.

The Patriots signed free agent safety Jordan Richards to fill the open roster spot created by the release of offensive tackle Caleb Benenoch on Tuesday.

Richards played three seasons in New England after the team selected him in the second round of the 2015 draft. The Patriots traded Richards to Atlanta for a seventh-round pick last year, and he started 12 games, then signed with Oakland last offseason. The Raiders released him on Aug. 30.

He hopes to bring more to the table this time around.

“I’d like to think I’m a smarter football player. I’ve seen how other teams now do it. I’ve seen how other teams go about their work,” he said. “I’d like to think I’ve seen more players, been in new systems. Hopefully I can use that to my advantage being back.”

It didn’t take long for the Patriots to find a new No. 17 to replace Antonio Brown.

A wide receiver was spotted on the field at practice Wednesday. The mystery receiver was later revealed to be Kelvin McKnight, who was added to the practice squad and already had a locker assigned to him by the time media was given access Wednesday.

An undrafted rookie out of Samford, McKnight spent the preseason with the Denver Broncos.

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