Monday, September 24, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Nick Folk brings experience to Bucs' kicking battle

Nick Folk has a new look for training camp this year, but he's gone through this before.

As an annual tradition, the 32-year-old kicker prepares for the start of another season by shaving his head, and the buildup to his first Bucs camp was no different.

"I've had my hair short for the most part since sixth or seventh grade," Folk said. "I met my wife, and when we got engaged, for the wedding, she wanted me to grow it out, so I agreed. Every offseason now, I grow it out 'cause she wants me to. I cut it short — even with the little bit of hair I have, it's a lot cooler. I keep it short for the season."

Folk's wife, Julianne, even posted a video to Twitter last week showing their three young children taking turns as laughing, holding-their-heads-in-disbelief barbers, taking an electric razor straight up the middle of their father's hair.

 

But straight up the middle has been Folk's look for 10 years in the NFL. His 2016 season was very much like his last few years with the Jets — he went 27-for-31 on field goals, an 87-percent success rate that tied for ninth-best in the NFL. But Folk was due to make $3-million in 2017, and the Jets — not likely to be a field goal away from many wins this fall, projected to go 1-15 by USA Today — released him with several other veteran players, opting instead to sign former Cardinals kicker Chandler Catanzaro for $900,000.

Folk is now competing to beat second-year Bucs kicker Robert Aguayo, the NFL's least accurate field-goal kicker in 2016 at 71 percent, having been replaced for the Jets by Catanzaro, who tied for second-least accurate last season, hitting 75 percent and missing two field goals in a 6-6 tie with the Seahawks.

From the first week, it looks to be an amicable kicking battle — both went 4-for-5 on kicks Sunday by coach Dirk Koetter's scoring. Asked if the fact that Folk got to go first was a small indication of an early lead, the veteran went out of his way to say that's not the case at all.

"We just rotate. We rotate days, rotate even in walkthroughs. It doesn't matter," Folk said. "It's every other, and at the end of the preseason, we'll have the same number of kicks in practice. It might be plus or minus one either way, but that's the way it's going to go. That's how we've done it all spring."

Perhaps the Bucs' most high-profile camp competition pits Folk's experience against the potential of what the Bucs had hoped Aguayo would be when general manager Jason Licht traded up into the second round to draft the former Florida State standout a year ago. Folk has scored 1,052 points in his NFL career with the Cowboys and Jets. No Bucs kicker has ever scored more than 592 (Martin Gramatica).

Licht's short history as a general manager, however, has been to opt for youth over experience at kicker — in 2014, he chose first-year kicker Pat Murray over veteran Connor Barth; in 2015, he traded for rookie Kyle Brindza over Barth, only to swap them a month later. Last year, the Bucs had invested enough in Aguayo that he had no competition on the roster.

This year, he does, and the Bucs gave Folk $750,000 in guaranteed money when they signed him, so they've invested in both sides of this competition, leaving it more as a battle to be won and lost on the field, in practice and more likely in four preseason games. Folk, old enough to have beaten Dirk Koetter's Arizona State team when he was at Arizona in 2004, likes the way his new home feels.

"Young team, a lot of energy," he said, running his hand over the stubble on his head. "Great guys in the locker room. We've got a good rapport. I couldn't ask for a better situation for myself and my family. It's been a good start."

Comments
Bucs Ring of Honor: Tony Dungy, the wise man who ‘learns from everybody’

Bucs Ring of Honor: Tony Dungy, the wise man who ‘learns from everybody’

TAMPA — At the pancake house, a couple sat in the next booth over. They recognized the voice. That voice. Brenda and Charlie Rivas asked to take a picture. Snap. They walked away on air. The server reappeared. She had to ask. Two of her tables ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Bucs-Steelers: The stage is set again for Mr. Monday Night

Bucs-Steelers: The stage is set again for Mr. Monday Night

TAMPA — At this stage in his career, DeSean Jackson is a celebrity who plays football. Movie producer, actor, host of the self-named One on One podcast and quarterback fashion coordinator – he does it all. But Jackson may do his best work...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide to Steelers-Buccaneers: Where is Ronald Jones?

Sound-Smarter-Than-Your-Friends Guide to Steelers-Buccaneers: Where is Ronald Jones?

One of the dominant storylines heading into Monday Night Football between the first-place Buccaneers and the last-place Steelers will be the things we didn’t expect to see. It’s the team that usually melts down against the team that actua...
Published: 09/23/18
McFarland on FitzMagic: ‘Play the guy with the hot hand’

McFarland on FitzMagic: ‘Play the guy with the hot hand’

TAMPA — Why wait until Monday Night Football? We got former Bucs defensive tackle Booger McFarland, the field analyst for the ESPN crew, to break down the Bucs-Steelers matchup. In his straight-forward, brutally honest style, McFarland dissects...
Published: 09/23/18
How Booger McFarland rose from a Tampa FM station to ‘Monday Night Football’

How Booger McFarland rose from a Tampa FM station to ‘Monday Night Football’

TAMPA — When Booger McFarland auditioned for the new Monday Night Football broadcast team, producer Jay Rothman was blown away."I closed my eyes and said, 'Holy (bleep), I feel like I'm listening to football's Charles Barkley,'' Rothman said.Si...
Published: 09/22/18
Bucs have to be ‘reasonable,’ about their plan to play defensive tackle Vita Vea

Bucs have to be ‘reasonable,’ about their plan to play defensive tackle Vita Vea

Defensive tackle Vita Vea made it through practice this week, his first since straining his left calf muscle July 29. But coach Dirk Koetter was pretty non-committal about how much, or if, Vea will play Monday night against the Steelers."When you've ...
Published: 09/22/18

How Tampa Bay is savoring its FitzMagic carpet ride

TAMPA — Bucs fan Dallas Collins has it all planned out.On Monday night, he and his family are going to whip up an Irish Boiled Dinner. You know, corned beef, carrots, potatoes, cabbage and onions.Then they're going to sit down and watch the Buc...
Published: 09/22/18
Bucs PK Chandler Catanzaro insists he’s curse-free

Bucs PK Chandler Catanzaro insists he’s curse-free

TAMPA — When placekicker Chandler Catanzaro missed a 44-yard field goal in the fourth quarter at New Orleans and a point-after attempt last week against the Eagles, he left the door open for a possible comeback by the Saints and Eagles.The Bucs...
Published: 09/21/18
Ryan Fitzpatrick said his only goal was to go 3-0 while Jameis Winston was suspended

Ryan Fitzpatrick said his only goal was to go 3-0 while Jameis Winston was suspended

TAMPA — Shortly after he learned he would be starting the first three games this season, Ryan Fitzpatrick saw the opportunity to do something few thought would be possible.No, not take Jameis Winston's job.The Bucs starting quarterback was susp...
Published: 09/21/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Mailbag: Bucs-Steelers, Vita Vea, Rays’ playoff chances, more

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Mailbag: Bucs-Steelers, Vita Vea, Rays’ playoff chances, more

It's our mailbag episode, with questions about how many games the Bucs can win this season, the reason for their offensive explosion and what we can expect from Vita Vea this week against the Steelers.Plus, what moves should the Rays make this offsea...
Published: 09/21/18