The New England Patriots are back home in Foxboro and held their first of two practices this week on Wednesday. Present at practice was Jake Bailey, meaning the team has opened the 21-day window to activate the punter off of injured reserve.
Bailey was placed on the injured reserve after Week 9 with a back injury. He has since missed New England’s last five games as Michael Palardy has handled the punting duties.
Prior to Bailey landing on IR, the 25-year-old was averaging career-lows in yards per attempt (42.1), net-yards (35.5), and hang time (4.14). Through nine weeks, those statistics ranked dead-last from any punter across the league.
Palardy, on the other hand, has not been much better statically-wise. The six-year veteran has averaged just 38.9 net-yards and a 4.16 hang time.
Where Bailey’s return will make the biggest impact will be on kick-off duty. New England has struggled with kick-offs since his departure, as Nick Folk has had 98.7 percent of his kicks returned and averaged just 3.70 seconds of hang time. Through nine weeks, Bailey saw just 39.1 percent of kick-offs returned with an average hang time of 4.11 seconds.
It has been a noticeable difference on the field, especially against Minnesota who returned a pivotal kick-off for a score. The following week, New England was forced to activate kicker Tristian Vizcaino off the practice squad to handle those duties.
New England will release their injury report around 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday. They will take on the Cincinnati Bengals at Gillette Stadium on Saturday for a 1:00 p.m. ET kickoff.