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NFL Draft 2023: New specialists duo ready for challenge of kicking in New England weather

New England became the first team since 2000 to draft a kick and punter.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: FEB 04 Reese’s Senior Bowl Photo by Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When it comes to New England weather, it’s hard enough just picking out an outfit that you will remain comfortable in throughout the day. Now imagine how hard it is to kick a football in these conditions.

It should come as no surprise that the two specialists the Patriots added in the NFL Draft on Saturday — Maryland kicker Chad Ryland and Michigan State punter Bryce Baringer — have experience kicking in inclement weather. It’s a trait the team usually looks for when drafting the position.

“I think when you look at cold weather like that, obviously not the most ideal conditions to kick a football,” Ryland said in his introductory conference call on Saturday. “Not a lot of people want to kick in that, but I do. I’m a cold weather guy. I like the cold. I like the wind. For me, it’s that challenge of bring it on.”

Baringer echoed a similar message soon after.

“I feel good,” he said about kicking in the cold. “Thankfully, just being from the Midwest and from Michigan, I’ve been able to have the chance to play in some snow games. We did last year, or two years ago, excuse me against Penn State, some really windy game. So hopefully I’ll be able to bring that knowledge out to Foxborough.”

Similarly to Baringer, Ryland comes with Big Ten experience as well after transferring to Maryland prior to the 2022 season. Before that, Ryland spent four years at Eastern Michigan in the Mid-American Conference where he also was able to develop his cold weather kicking ability.

“Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into kicking in those conditions,” he explained. “So the challenge of doing that happened to really develop in terms of ball striking, understanding conditions and just everything that comes with it. I love it. Like I don’t shy away from it. It certainly has helped me develop into the kicker I am today. So long story short, I guess I’m thankful for adverse conditions like that.”

One of the biggest things that goes into that process for Ryland, who became the highest specialist Bill Belichick has ever drafted after the team traded up to pick No. 112 to select him, is maximizing every opportunity he comes across on a daily basis.

“I think it’s super important to be in tune with my body in terms of how I approach practice, games, training sessions on my own,” he said. “But really just controlling the leg speed to match the body and make the ball do what I want to do in specific weather conditions. A lot of that comes from time.”

Beyond the duo’s similar background of kicking in inclement weather, the Patriots’ new specialists also have experience working together already. They now hope that experience will continue to grow as they become a long-term pair in Foxboro.

“Chad and I have known each other for a long time, back from his days at Eastern Michigan then into the Big Ten with him at Maryland this year,” Baringer said. “Then also some familiarity, we were teammates at the Senior Bowl. So that was really awesome just to kind of see him go, and then be able to get the call. It’ll be fun to be able to get with him.”