New England Patriots punter Jake Bailey’s season has reached its end.
Head coach Bill Belichick confirmed to reporters on Friday that the former first-team All-Pro’s 21-day practice window will close without being activated to the 53-man roster in time for the finale versus the Buffalo Bills.
“No, he’s ineligible,” Belichick said during his press conference. “His time period expired.”
Bailey, 25, had been sent to injured reserve due to a back injury that left him listed as doubtful on Nov. 19. He returned to practice on Dec. 21 yet remained sidelined for subsequent matchups with the Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins.
Arriving in the fifth round of the 2019 NFL draft out of Stanford, the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Bailey served as New England’s punter, holder and kickoff specialist for 58 consecutive games. He earned Pro Bowl honors in addition to All-Pro honors as a sophomore. As a result, the proven performance escalator saw his base salary rise from $965,000 to $3.986 million in the final year of his rookie contract.
A four-year, $13.5 million extension followed at the start of training camp. Yet in nine games this campaign, Bailey ranked last in the NFL with an average of 42.1 yards per punt and a net average of 35.3 yards per punt.
The Patriots promoted veteran punter Michael Palardy from the practice squad in the incumbent’s absence. Through seven games since then, the 2014 undrafted free agent has punted 39 times while averaging 42.6 yards per with a net of 37.1 yards per — both second-to-last among the league’s qualifiers. While also handling holds, he has had one punt blocked to go with five fair catches, nine touchbacks and a long of 58 yards.
Kicker Tristan Vizcaino has twice served as a standard elevation for kickoff duties since returning to New England’s practice squad.
Week 18 at Highmark Stadium is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET Sunday.