The New England Patriots have been a model of stability at the place kicker position over the last three decades. After Adam Vinatieri played an integral role in the team’s first three Super Bowl runs, he was replaced by Stephen Gostkowski who himself helped New England win three more championships.
Vinatieri and Gostkowski are two of the best kickers in NFL history, and realistic candidates to one day make their way into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The same is also true for the Patriots’ current kicker, at least according to head coach/football historian Bill Belichick.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Belichick spoke of Folk and mentioned him in one breath with Vinatieri and Gostkowski.
“Nick’s really good,” Belichick said. “He’s really, probably of all the kickers, probably the smartest. They were all smart, but I mean really just professional, totally understanding everything about kicking. Adam and Stephen are probably a little more talented but just in terms of fundamentals, the execution, and the consistency Nick’s really good. I mean Adam – you’re talking about a Hall Of Fame kicker, all three of those guys could be. I mean they’re pretty good.
“We’ve been very fortunate. Matt Stover in Cleveland, which he looked pretty good too until [Justin] Tucker came along. But yeah, that’s a key position, and Nick’s been incredibly consistent.”
Folk originally entered the NFL as a sixth-round draft pick by the Dallas Cowboys in 2007. Finding immediate success at the pro level, he was voted to the Pro Bowl in his first year and went on to appear in 47 games for the team before being let go again following a disappointing 2009 season.
He went on to join the New York Jets for whom he appeared in a combined 107 regular season and playoff games over a six-year span. Following a brief stint in Tampa Bay, Folk spent the 2018 out of football and parts of 2019 in the short-lived AAF.
Then, in late 2019, the Patriots picked him up as a free agent to help replace an injured Gostkowski. Since then, he has been one of the most reliable kickers in the NFL and a cornerstone of the New England special teams operation.
2022 is more of the same for the 37-year-old, who was recently named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week — his fifth such honor since arriving in New England. Folk has made 15 of 17 field goal attempts as well as all 18 of his point-after tries; his combined success rate of 94.3 percent is one of the highest in the NFL.
“I just try to do my part,” Folk said after the game against the Jets on Sunday that saw him go 5-for-5 on field goal tries. “I had a great operation with Jake [Bailey] and Joe [Cardona]. The line blocked well. Like I say all the time, we get to put a cherry on top and put it through the uprights. So, just happy to have a good day.”
Folk has had a lot of good days over the course of his career, and especially after joining the Patriots. Whether or not the culmination of them will result in a gold jacket is still questionable, but Belichick is feeling strongly about the contributions he has made throughout his time in the league.