Special Teams Coach Westhoff Says This Race Will Go Down To The Wire

CORTLAND, N.Y. (WFAN/AP) — Nick Folk and Josh Brown have known each other for a few years, good friends in a tight-knit NFL kicking fraternity.

They’ve trained together, kicked a ton of footballs together and shared tips. Now, they’re in training camp with the New York Jets — and after the same gig.

“I have every intention of winning the job,” Brown said, a serious look in his eyes.

“Yeah,” Folk said when told of Brown’s comment, “and I’m here to keep my job.”

Sounds a bit contentious, huh? But they both insist it’s really not. They’re approaching things exactly as they both expected.

“We have no problem with each other,” said Folk, entering his third season with the Jets. “We’re both kind of rooting for each other. I know that sounds kind of awkward, but I guess that’s who we are as people. It’ll be a good competition for however long this preseason is, and I think we’ll push each other to the limit.”

Jets special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff is counting on exactly that.

Folk is coming off an up-and-down year in which he started off strong by making his first 11 field-goal attempts, breaking the team record of 10 straight from the start of a season. He finished 19 of 25 on field-goal attempts, and was re-signed in March.

Despite being mostly satisfied with the 27-year-old Folk, the Jets (No. 17 in the AP Pro32) knew having a real competition in training camp would be ideal. So, in planning for the NFL draft in April, Westhoff came up with a few kickers he thought would be great additions.

“But we weren’t in a position to take them as the draft materialized and that goal I had very prominent in my mind was gone, and I understand that,” Westhoff said. “Then, I had to figure out how to create this competition, and Josh was absolutely the best guy to do that. He’s a very viable candidate and he’s had a lot of success in this league.”

The 33-year-old Brown was released by St. Louis in April after the Rams drafted his potential replacement, Greg Zuerlein. Brown, who was entering the final year of a five-year, $14.2 million deal, is a career 81 percent kicker but was 21 for 28 on field goals last season. He spent his first five seasons with Seattle, earning a reputation as one of the league’s most consistent kickers.

“I wanted to make this as viable a competition as I possibly can, and I think that’s what it will become because you’ve got two guys, and each ones have had some ups and downs, but they’ve had some ups,” Westhoff said. “So we’re going to push that to the max and go from there. I think it’s going to be a very good competition.”

And one that each is certain that they will win.

“I want this job,” Brown said. “I want a job in the National Football League, but I want this job. You have to be confident. You have to know that you’re capable of winning a job. Nick knows it, and I know he’s capable of winning this job. There’s mutual respect. It’s not an arrogance thing. You come in expecting to win. I have to come in thinking this is my job and he has to beat me. That’s my mentality.”

The two have had some solid days, and others not so consistent, particularly in the first few days of camp. They were both perfect Monday, when Westhoff made a small tweak to the practice schedule. Instead of having the two kick field goals at the end of practice, as they normally have, Westhoff had Folk and Brown kick a bit earlier.

“You’ve got these kickers who have gotten out there early and then they’ve been on their feet standing there, loosening or whatever for 2 1/2 hours, pushing 3 hours,” Westhoff said. “And then it’s like, `Let’s go kick some field goals.’ Well, come on. That’s silly. So, I changed that and I think I saw a little bit of a better performance.”

Folk said the first few days were spent getting their timing back with punters T.J. Conley and Travis Baltz, who serve as the holders, and long snapper Tanner Purdum. The kickers have also had to get readjusted to kicking with pads on again.

The two first met in 2008 when Folk was with the Cowboys and Brown with the Rams and their teams played each other. They’ve worked out several times in the offseason, including this past spring in San Diego with many other kickers and punters at training sessions hosted by former Pro Bowl kicker John Carney.

When Brown signed with the Jets, he sent Folk a text message to let him know and to alleviate any potential stress in what could be a touchy situation.

“I’ve got nothing bad to say about him,” Folk said. “It’ll be a good, fun competition. It’s tough because only one guy is going to make the team. But I think we’re both rooting for each other because whichever guy doesn’t make the team, we hope he catches on with someone else and goes out and has a good year.”

But both, of course, have every intention of sticking around with the Jets.

“I think the tension is there, but it’s not so thick that we’re talking about it,” Brown said. “We’re not talking trash to each other, and we’re not going after each other verbally. It comes down to whoever the Jets feel most comfortable with in a game-winning situation.”

NOTES: CB Antonio Cromartie told “ESPN First Take” on Tuesday that he would rank himself as the second-best wide receiver on the team behind Santonio Holmes. He could be used at the position in certain spots, but has taken only one snap there during camp. “I haven’t really played it in the past four or five years, but I can put myself as the second just with raw ability and talent going out there, I think, me separating and being a more physical guy out there on the outside,” he said. … The Jets had their first day off from practice Tuesday, but return to the field Wednesday morning.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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