Patriots kicking competition is ‘pretty close,’ according to Bill Belichick


Maybe Bill Belichick knows something we don’t.

After watching several Patriots training camp practices, it seemed veteran Nick Folk had the clear edge over rookie Justin Rohrwasser to being the team’s kicker. But, speaking via video conference Friday morning, Bill Belichick said it’s a “pretty close gap.”

Belichick also went into a long explanation on how a competition like this is hard to decide with a veteran and rookie competing for the same job.

“It’s a similar decision I think that every team that I’ve ever been on has come up, where you have a veteran player with experience and a very accomplished career, with a younger player with potentially a long career ahead of him that has less experience,” he said. “And they at this particular point in time you just have to see where you feel like the competition is, but then also look at it and say, ‘OK, where are things going to be halfway through the season, where are things going to be a year from now, or maybe two years from now?’

“And so, then that changes sometimes the evaluation. Now those are projections and there’s no certainty there. But when you look at players that we’ve had on our team — James White would be a good example of a player that didn’t play his rookie year. I think he was only active for a game or two. Obviously, Brady never played (much as a rookie).

“If you evaluate some players where they are at one point in time and then evaluate them a year later, sometimes you can have a drastic change. And in those two cases (White and Brady), I’m glad we didn’t make the decision based on where they were at the end of their rookie training camp to not have them on our team on a longer-term view.

“Now, not everybody falls into that category. But I’m saying, there’s two good examples. Shane Vereen would be another one — guys that didn’t have production at one point in time but then in a relatively short period of time that changed, maybe expectedly, maybe unexpectedly. Those are the kind of decisions that you make when you have a very experienced player versus a rookie.

“I think obviously, when the rookie at a particular position — I’m not saying this is the case with the kicker, I’m saying generically — if you have a rookie who’s already moved ahead of a player with a lot of experience and you have every reason to think that the rookie will continue to improve, then that’s a pretty straightforward decision. That’s pretty easy. But when it’s the other way around, when those two lines are going to cross at some point between the experienced guy coming closer to the end of his career and the inexperienced guy ascending to a higher level — when and how does that happen?

“Position’s a factor, again. This is not like (how) you can carry seven defensive linemen. This is a kicker. So that decision’s a little bit different than it is at other spots, where you can play more than one guy. But fundamentally, it’s still (the same). … I can remember those conversations going back to 1975, when I was with the Colts and Coach Marchibroda. It was the same thing then. It was, ‘This guy with experience versus this guy with inexperience.’ And I didn’t really understand it at that point. But at that point in time, the experienced guy in those conversations was always better, but then in the long run, that wasn’t always the case, as I cited with a couple of our examples.

“But it’s a really tough question, and it’s really challenging for every coach, every team. It’s not like college, where you’re going to have all the players all the time. Here you have to make choices. You can’t keep them all. And you’ve got to make a decision based on, you know … and either way, you could be right. When you make that decision either way, you could be right or you could be wrong depending on how fast or slow those tangents pass.

“It’s a great question, though. The hardest part of this time of year is those types of decisions.”

Maybe Belichick has seen some things the media hasn’t.

Regardless, it seems the team would like to continue working with Rohrwasser, who it selected in the fifth round, if he does not make the initial 53-man roster.

The Patriots need to get their roster down to 53 players by Saturday afternoon.