New England Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater seems to be the leader of the Jake Bailey fan club.
Bailey, the third-year punter, was arguably the Patriots most impressive player during a disappointing 2020 season — yes, again, the punter. He was selected to his first Pro Bowl and was one of two All-Pro selections to represent New England with the other being fellow special teamer Gunner Olszewski.
Slater was effusive in his praise for Bailey on Thursday ahead of the Patriots’ Week 2 matchup with the New York Jets.
“I am a little bit biased, but I believe he is the finest that our business has to offer,” Slater said. “And as an older player in this league I’ve been around a lot of guys, I’ve seen a lot of guys, and the thing I appreciate most about this young man is his commitment to his craft.
“No matter what kind of success he has he is harder on himself than anyone. He wants to get better. He pushes himself every day. Sometimes we have to pull the reigns back on him a little bit,” Slater said. “But it’s a joy to work with guys like that. It makes you appreciate the opportunity to be a part of a team and play alongside great teammates like that. Jake, we’re expecting a lot from him this season, rightfully so because we know what he can do, and like I said he’s a big part of what we do in the kicking game. His role, his job is important. It makes us go. So collectively, hopefully, this week we have a good week.”
While Bailey didn’t have his best performance in Week 1 — he miss-hit his first punt which led to a touch back and net gain of just 17 yards– he finished the game averaging 49.5 yards on his two kicks with his game-long of 62 yards. Bailey hit one 71 yards during a game against the Los Angeles Rams last season.
Bailey did, however, appreciate the praise from Slater.
“He’s a great person, first and foremost, but a great football player,” Bailey said of the Patriots longtime captain. “He makes my job easy easier because he leads from the front. He shows the whole team how we should act off the field and on the field. He’s a really good leader.”
Hopefully Bailey, Slater and the Patriots will be able to rediscover their best Sunday with kickoff from MetLife Stadium scheduled for 1 p.m. ET.