FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Nick Folk has patiently waited over nine months to kick in an NFL game again.
Fully healed from a quadriceps injury that cut short his season, and facing yet another challenge for his job, the veteran kicker is eager to walk onto the field at MetLife Stadium on Thursday night when the New York Jets take on the Jacksonville Jaguars in the teams’ preseason opener.
“I’m ready to play,” Folk said. “I’ve been ready to play since the beginning of OTAs. It’ll be good for me to get back out there and kind of get the juices flowing again. I’m good and feel good out there.”
Folk has certainly looked good during training camp, consistently making kick after kick in practice.
But as impressive as he has been this summer, rookie Ross Martin has been equally as good.
“He’s a good kicker and he’s quiet, trying to observe more than anything,” Folk said. “Nice kid. That’s how I was as a rookie, too. Just a fly on the wall. It’s kind of fun having him around, watching a good, young kicker kick.”
It all makes for an intriguing situation for coach Todd Bowles to sort out over the next few weeks.
“Every year is a competition because even if you’re by yourself and you have a poor outing or poor training camp, they’re always looking for someone,” Folk said. “So, yeah, I do feel it’s a competition, and that’s good. It should bring out the best in myself, Ross, and everyone else on this team.”
Folk, two field goals from passing John Hall for third place on the Jets’ career list, is no stranger to kicking for his job. Nick Novak (2011), Josh Brown (2012), Billy Cundiff (2013), Dan Carpenter (2013) and Andrew Furney (2014) have all come and gone. Folk has always come out on top since signing with the Jets in 2010 after being waived by Dallas in favor of Shaun Suisham after three seasons with the Cowboys.
Martin, an undrafted rookie out of Duke, is the latest comer. And, he has a shot at doing what the others couldn’t.
“They’ve both done a great job,” special teams coordinator Brant Boyer said. “Nick’s a veteran guy that obviously has the experience, and they’ve both been very consistent. I think they both have a really good chance and we’ll see what happens.”
Bowles said earlier in camp he doesn’t anticipate a decision being made until after the third game, at the earliest. That should give both Folk and Martin plenty of opportunities.
Some fans and media have speculated the Jets could opt for Martin if the two are close because of the salary differential. Folk, 31, is scheduled to make a base salary of $2.75 million; Martin will earn just $450,000.
“You can’t think about that,” Folk said. “All I can do is control what I can control, and that’s making kicks and kicking off well. Things will take care of themselves.”
Martin came to the Jets with a reputation for having an accurate and consistent leg. He was a four-time All-ACC selection at Duke and holds several school records, including most field goals made and attempted, highest career field goal percentage, and most PATs.
He signed with the Jets following the draft after talking with some of the coaches.
“They sounded like they really wanted me to be here and they really wanted me to compete,” said Martin, an Ohio native. “Kicking is sort of unique in the sense that you’re never exactly lining up against another guy. It’s just you out there kicking.”
Martin grew up playing soccer, and was a linebacker and running back through eighth grade. Once he got to high school, he wanted to play both sports, and the only way to make it work was to kick for the football team during special teams practice, then take off his pads and head over to the soccer field next door.
“I did that for a couple of years, and then my junior year I decided to devote all of my time to football once I saw there was going to be a future in that in college with scholarships and everything,” he said. “Then, I went full throttle into that.”
Turns out, it was a great decision for Martin. Now, he’ll get a chance to kick in an NFL preseason game — and take his first shot at beating out Folk.
“I’m just out here trying to kick well and do my best each and every day,” Martin said, “and hopefully decisions are in my favor.