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Belichick doesn’t rule out Patriots having two kickers on their roster


Nick Folk and Chad Ryland battled for the kicker position this preseason.

Fourth-round rookie Chad Ryland has taken the most kickoffs for the Patriots this preseason. Barry Chin/Globe Staff

When the Patriots selected Chad Ryland in the fourth round of the 2023 NFL Draft, many assumed Nick Folk’s stay in New England was about to end.

But Patriots coach Bill Belichick didn’t rule out the possibility of keeping two kickers on the roster when he spoke to reporters Saturday.

“We had two kickers last year on the roster for one game,” Belichick said when asked if he would ever consider keeping two kickers on the 53-man roster. “Again, there are a number of things to consider when looking at the full roster lineup.

“We’ll get back to it this weekend and do what we think is best for the team. That’s all I can tell you.

As Belichick alluded to, the Patriots will have a lot of decisions to make in the coming days. League teams will have to reduce their roster to 53 players by 4 p.m. Tuesday. New England still have a roster of 90 on Saturday morning, which means they will have to cut at least 37 players.

The Patriots didn’t get to see much of the competition play out in their three preseason games. New England had just one field goal attempt in the preseason, with Folk kicking 44 yards in the first quarter of the preseason opener.

But Belichick said he got to see more than enough Folk and Ryland in practice.

“You know, we didn’t make a field goal in preseason, so it was all touchdowns and no field goal attempts,” Belichick said in error, even though he wasn’t far behind. “We had a lot of that in training, and that’s what we have to get rid of. They both had very good camps, so it’s a pretty tight competition.

Folk was considered one of the Patriots’ best players for much of the past few seasons. The 38-year-old has been accurate in the 2020 and 2021 seasons, making 62 of 67 field goal attempts (92.5%) over that span. He also set an NFL record with 64 consecutive kicks from less than 50 yards, a streak that ended in October of last season.

As Folk was a little less accurate last year (he hit 86.5 percent of his shots) and struggled with longer baskets (he converted 73.7 percent of his shots to at least 40 yards), the Patriots opted to sign Ryland, who was known for his big leg in college. The Patriots made him the top-selected specialist of the Belichick era when they drafted him with the 112th overall pick.

Ryland has taken more kick-off opportunities than Folk this preseason, kicking off seven times while Folk has only done so twice. Ryland also converted five of his kickoffs into touchbacks. Both kickers also made their two attempts at the next point.

But Ryland reportedly struggled at times during training camp, missing back-to-back tries in Tuesday’s practice. Belichick has never knocked out a healthy rookie selected in the first four rounds while in New England, so Ryland is likely safe. But missed kicks like this could open the door for Folk to stay on the roster.

In addition to the kicker battle, the Patriots also used two punters in training camp in the preseason. Sixth-round rookie Bryce Baringer and veteran Corliss Waitman are both battling for a spot in the roster.

Belichick mentioned the competition at the punter when asked about the kicking competition on Saturday.

“Same with the betting situation, Corliss had two huge punts last night, one out of the end zone, so we’ll see how that goes,” Belichick said. “It looks like we have very good competition at those two places.”

While Waitman had an impressive night on Friday, it looks like Baringer has the inside lane for the punter job, as he took most of the reps during preseason and in training.


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