By Alex Barth, 985TheSportsHub.com
With the quarterback competition seemingly over in New England, a new position battle has emerged, at kicker.
2020 fifth-round pick Justin Rohrwasser has struggled early in camp. After the rookie did not kick in live action for most of week 1, the team signed veteran Nick Folk on Saturday. Shortly after that announcement, it was reported by The Athletic’s Jeff Howe that Rohrwasser is dealing with an injury.
Whether Rohrwasser’s issues were due to an injury or not, the reality is the Patriots need a reliable kicker in time for their season opener, which is in less than three weeks. Is that why the team brought in Folk, because they don’t know if they can rely on Rohrwasser? According to head coach Bill Belichick, the team’s conversations with Folk extend back before Rohrwasser was even drafted.
“We’ve been talking to Nick since back in March, so this isn’t something that just came up a couple of days ago,” Belichick told reporters Wednesday morning. “It’s been an ongoing conversation, for several months actually.”
“We talked to Nick throughout the course of the spring, and even training camp, and things worked out here last week,” Belichick continued. “There were – things just didn’t work out until recently with Nick. I’m glad they did, I’m glad he’s here.”
Folk spent part of the 2019 season with the Patriots, after Mike Nugent struggled in replacing the injured Stephen Gostkowski. In seven games, Folk was 14-of-17 on field goals, and 12-of-12 on extra points.
“It’s great to have him, he certainly came in and did a good job for us last year,” Belichick said of the signing.
Many might be quick to jump to the conclusion that the Patriots hesitation and eventual signing of Folk is linked to Rohrwasser struggling. However the timeline doesn’t add up. Again, Belichick said the conversations have been going on since before his team even drafted a kicker. Plus, it was always expected the team would bring in veteran competition for whichever kicker they drafted.
A more likely scenario is Folk hoping to sign somewhere he would be given a starting job, instead of having to compete for one. When the New York Giants signed Graham Gano last week, the last such opportunity disappeared, which could be what changed Folk’s mind and why his return to New England came when it did.
Whatever the delay, Folk is now in the building working with and against Rohrwasser. How does the contest stack up?
“Those two guys will both get as much opportunity as we can give them, and we’ll evaluate and go from there,” Belichick said, assessing the team’s kicking situation. “I think both players are good kickers. We’ll see how it goes. That’ll be up to them to decide.”