Nick Folk was asked this morning about special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff. He responded by talking about Friday morning, which will be the biggest day to date in his Jets career.
"He’s been great so far. We’re going out tomorrow to kick a little bit," said Folk in front of his locker during the media availability period in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. "That’ll be my first kicking experience here except for my workout. It’ll be good."
It’ll also be Folk’s first Green & White outdoors workout as the most experienced PK on the Jets’ roster, after Jay Feely’s signing with Arizona last week. But that’s not what will make the outdoor session (perhaps in the rain here in North Jersey) so good for him.
"Coach Ryan told me somebody will probably be in here competing with me," he said. "I’ve competed two out of three years for someone, so it’s not bad. I don’t mind it at all. It’ll bring out the best for the team and I think it should bring out the best in you."
Folk needs to show his best because it’s better than how he ended last season with Dallas. Many remember his struggles as he went 4-for-11 on his field goal tries in a six-game span before the Cowboys released him with two games to go in the regular season.
Looking back on December, he was asked, was he surprised he was let go?
"The way I was kicking? It was going to happen at some point unless I started making kicks," he said.
But the downside of this game often is that the good work of players and teams gets forgotten in the blink of the eye that is the NFL’s 16-game season. What folks might forget about Folk is that for 2½ seasons, he was fashioning a career as one of the league’s best young kickers.
Folk wasn’t going to go into all the reasons that career got put on hold for a while. But he allowed that a lot had to do with the hip procedure he underwent in May 2009 after that joint had bothered him for much of ’08.
"I don’t want to blame anything, but everything leads back to the surgery. That’s what I can kind of attribute it to," he said. "I talked with my kicking coach and there was something really minor I had picked up, and it was because I felt I needed to get more aggressive to the ball to compensate for things. That’s just the way it was. But everything feels good now."
There’s no telling who all will be competing against Folk for the kicking job this off-season and training camp. On Tuesday the Jets announced the signing of Clint Stitser, the Fresno State kicker who reminds me just a bit of John Hall — not quite as big at 6’1" and 200 pounds as Johnny was, but still big enough, and raw with 71 percent career accuracy at Fresno, similar to how raw Hall was coming out of Wisconsin as a free agent under Bill Parcells in 1997. Stitser had a strong workout for Westhoff and the Jets before signing on and for now he’s in the competition.
But Folk is even bigger at 6’1", 225, and he looks as if he’s got back the confidence that led him to a Pro Bowl appearance as a rookie in 2007 and an even better non-PB season the next year.
"It’s such an up-and-down game. I’ve just got to keep my head to the grind, keep working, keep going," he said. "We’ll get it fixed."
I asked him about the possible opportunity to open another new NFL stadium in style. Last year Folk converted the first placement, an extra point, in Cowboys Stadium’s Aug. 21 preseason debut, then hit all his kicks (4 PATs and a 47-yard FG) in the official Sunday night unveiling in the loss to the Giants last Sept. 20. He may well have the chance to hit the first kick in New Meadowlands Stadium in the Monday night preseason opener against the Giants, not to mention the first "real" kick in the the Jets’ NMS history in the Monday night regular-season opener.
"It’s important, but I think it’s more important for the team to get a win in the first game," he said. "We didn’t win the first one last year in Dallas. I could care less how many field goals I kick. I could kick extra points all day long if we win games and win the Super Bowl."
I reminded him that I didn’t think he’d ever missed an extra point in all the ups and downs of his three-year pro career. He didn’t say a word, just knocked on the wood panel at the side of his locker, before heading to today’s practice.
Here are some pertinent breakdowns for Folk and the NFL the past three seasons. They don’t prove anything, but they should remind us that the Jets have a pretty decent kicker on the roster.
|2007 Week 1–2009 Week 9||FG-FGA||Pct||XP-XPA||Pct|
|All Other NFL Kickers||1938-2331||83.1||2827-2855||99.0|
|2009 Week 10–2009 Week 17||FG-FGA||Pct||XP-XPA||Pct|
|All Other NFL Kickers||752-919||81.8||1152-1172||98.3|
Tags: Clint Stitser, Dallas Cowboys, Jay Feely, Mike Westhoff, new Meadowlands stadium, Nick Folk, Rex Ryan
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