Head-to-head competition is a welcome sight in every NFL training camp, save for perhaps at one position.


Unfortunately for the Patriots, the competition there is just starting to heat up.

Veteran kicker Nick Folk has returned to New England and has applied immediate pressure on fifth-round pick Justin Rohrwasser. Since Monday, he’s made every field goal attempt during team periods and has demonstrated greater consistency with the flight of his kicks.

Rohrwasser’s performance to date has reportedly been affected by a minor injury. On Sunday, Rohrwasser missed wildly on multiple attempts in a side session, sending kicks well wide and low. Hours later, Folk signed as a free agent. Since then, he’s edged the rookie by connecting on at least one more field goal try in team periods. Rohrwasser soared two of his tries over an upright, making it unclear whether they were were good.

Patriots Coach Bill Belichick is content letting their competition play out.


“We’ll see how it goes,” Belichick said Wednesday. “That will be up to them to decide.”

Belichick told reporters the team shared a dialogue with Folk dating back to March. After joining the team in late October last year, Folk went 9 of 12 on field goals and hit every extra point through the end of the regular season.

“It’s great to have him.” Belichick said. “He certainly came in and did a great job for us last year. But things just didn’t work out until recently with Nick. I’m glad they did. I’m glad he’s here.”

Rohrwasser, who entered training camp without any threat of losing his job, carries a powerful leg. However, he took only five field-goal attempts during his first week and made three of them. Earlier, Rohrwasser made waves at the start of his career because of a since-removed tattoo carrying the symbol of an alt-right paramilitary group he’d worn for years.

The Patriots are currently halfway through training camp, leaving him few chances to assert himself as the team’s best kicking option.

“I think both players are good kickers,” Belichick said. “We’ll see how it turns out. I don’t know. Those two guys will both get as much opportunity as we can give him. We’ll evaluate him and go from there.”


MICHEL RETURNS: For the first time all summer, running back Sony Michel appeared in uniform at practice on Thursday.

Michel opened training camp on the team’s Physically Unable to Play list after undergoing foot surgery in May. The third-year back had been sidelined next to veteran back Lamar Miller, who remains on PUP. Michel now joins Damien Harris, James White, Rex Burkhead and undrafted rookie J.J. Taylor on the field.

He was limited Thursday.

So far, Harris has taken the majority of running back snaps in Michel’s absence. After a strong rookie campaign, Michel slumped last season to a 3.7 yards per carry average and 912 total rushing yards. He faces a steep climb to reclaim his starting job in time for Week 1.

STEPHON GILMORE missed four practices and also had to clear the NFL’s COVID-19 protocol before returning, but on Tuesday the Pro Bowl cornerback and last year’s NFL Defensive Player of the Year was back.

It was clear his defensive teammates were happy to have their leader back.

“It’s always good. Steph is a guy that we all look up to. I know, speaking for me, I like to have Steph out there because I can learn from him,” said safety Terrence Brooks. “Just the way he covers, the way he goes about practice, the way he carries himself. It’s always good to get your brother back in the build. We definitely missed him. It felt good to have him out there, you don’t need to worry about as many receivers when he’s out there.”

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