Anyone who’s watched the Patriots dating back to the summer knows that rookie punter Jake Bailey has a very strong right leg.
That leg, and his booming punts, helped the fifth-round pick out of Stanford beat out incumbent Ryan Allen for the New England punting job in early August.
The leg also earned him AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors for his work in Sunday’s win over the Jets, which included five of his seven punts downed inside the 20 including four inside the 10.
But Bailey freely admits that even a specialist like himself doesn’t work alone, and that his punting success relies on those around him, including one very special teammate. His faith in that teammate came into play on his only touchback of the season against New York.
“You do want to avoid touchbacks. But I have the best gunner in the game right now,” Bailey said, his eyes gesturing across the Gillette Stadium locker room toward New England special teams captain Matthew Slater. “So I felt that I could kind of play that a little aggressive and kind of go after it. At the end of the day it was a 38-net-yard punt. So I was kind of shooting for the 57-yard net with hopes that if it didn’t work out it would just be a 38 net. That was kind of what I was going for.”
That aggressive style was key on another punt against the Jets, one that included a sensational play by Slater as the veteran tossed the ball back behind him for it to be downed at the 1.
“I mean, I’ve never played with a seven-time Pro Bowler before. It’s pretty special,” Bailey said. “Really awesome. It’s all him, man. He’s doing a lot of the work.”
Bailey is also putting in his own work, though. And it’s clearly paying off.
“Jake's a very talented player. He had a lot to work with when he came in,” Bill Belichick said. “He's done well ever since he's been here. There's some situational punting that we've asked him to do. He's handled that well.”
The rookie is enjoying every minute of his foray into football in Foxborough.
“It’s been great. I’m just transitioning to punting in this environment. It’s been going great so far. Just trying to keep it going,” he said, downplaying the adjustment. “Just different situational stuff, like end-of-game, that I had to think about now that I didn’t really do in college. At the end of the day it’s just putting your foot on the ball, it’s not too much different.”
He also downplayed his Player of the Week honor, something he only found out about when veteran Brandon Bolden congratulated him in the locker room on Wednesday morning.
“I was like, what, what are your talking about?,” Bailey recalled with a smile. “He’s like look at your phone, you just got a really cool award. So that’s how I found out.
“It was an awesome individual thing. It’s been nice coming back to work and getting better with the team. That’s actually just the best thing, coming back to practice and knowing I can get better every day.”