Dan Bailey is the only kicker the Cowboys are using in OTAs.
Must be a strange feeling for him.
The second-year veteran won a five-man competition for the job last year. In training camp, he beat out the previous year’s kicker, David Buehler, plus veterans Dave Rayner and Shayne Graham. Another kicker, Kai Forbath, never came off the injured list.
But now here he is, alone and, presumably, with the Cowboys’ full confidence. Will that allow him to relax in training camp, knowing he has secured the team’s confidence after making 32 of 37 kicks as an undrafted rookie?
“Honestly, I’m just going to try to approach it the same way,” he said Wednesday after an OTA practice at Valley Ranch. “You can’t take a day off. That’s the nature of the league. I’m going to do what I did last year and focus on what I need to do to be 100 percent at my position, whether that’s on kickoffs or field goals or whatever. I just need to go out there and go 1-for-1. I just need to focus on that and pick up where I left off last year.”
Where he left off last year wasn’t so great.
The former Groza Award winner from Oklahoma State had four misses (one blocked) in nine attempts over the final five games.
But he had started so well. He made 27 of his first 28 kicks, including 26 in a row, despite a switch in holders from Mat McBriar to Tony Romo and back to McBriar.
“Obviously, the end of my season didn’t go exactly how I planned,” he said. “At the same time, you can learn from that. There were a lot of things that happened last year, different holders and stuff. It’s all really water under the bridge now. It’s not an excuse. I just can learn from all that stuff and kind of take it into this next year. I feel like I’m that much more prepared for what happens this year.”
Bailey said he can look at one game, now and always, for experience on how to handle the ups and downs of kicking. In Week 2 against San Francisco, he missed a 21-yard field goal. But he made a 48-yard kick to force overtime, then won the game in overtime with a 19-yard kick.
“That was definitely a rollercoaster game for myself,” he said. “For me, a missed kick like that is pretty much the low of the low, and then having a kick to tie the game and send it to overtime is pretty much the most pressure you can have as a kicker. I had them both in one game. It was good to know how both felt. I wouldn’t necessarily want it to happen again. But I definitely learned a lot in that game. It helped me mentally prepare later on last season, and then obviously for the rest of my career, I can go back to that game and remember what that felt like.”
-- Carlos Mendez