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Next of Quinn? What Nordin’s Designation to Return from IR Might Mean for Patriots

Despite his return to practice, New England’s rookie kicker is unlikely to unseat veteran Nick Folk as the team’s top option at the position.

Earlier this spring, New England Patriots rookie kicker Quinn Nordin was polishing his LinkedIn profile, searching for potential career opportunities. An inquiry from the Pats regarding his kicking services changed all that. Nordin was on his way to Foxboro for spring practices. Now, as December is about to begin, he is on his way back to those same practice fields.

After spending nearly the entirety of the 2021 NFL season on injured reserve, Nordin has been designated to return from injured reserve by the Patriots, thus opening his 21-day activation window. The move was confirmed by NFL transaction wire on Monday evening.

While it is highly unlikely that Nordin’s possible return will precipitate a change at the kicker position for 2021, it serves as a reminder that the Patriots are still in possession of a potential dynamic young talent at the position.

Enter ‘the Cannon’ ??

Since Nordin joined the team as an undrafted rookie out of the University of Michigan in May, fans and media alike have helped to cultivate the legend of his leg strength. During his four years with the Wolverines, Nordin made 42 out of 58 field goals. He also converted a 57-yard field goal at the end of the first half of the 2020 Citrus Bowl against Alabama, setting a record for the longest field goal in Citrus Bowl history. It was also the longest field goal made in Michigan's program history.

During training camp, special teams captain, Matthew Slater, even compared Nordin’s leg to a “cannon” and expressed excitement on watching him develop. As training camp progressed, the legend of Quinn Nordin continued to grow. His kicks routinely split the uprights from impressive distances, often with room to spare. At one point, Nordin had yet to miss a kick inside the confines of Gillette Stadium.

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The only question marks surrounding him were accuracy and consistency; two things that his competitor Nick Folk more-than adequately exhibited in 2020.

Still, the rookie was considered to have the upper hand over the veteran Folk for the kicking job in New England. Despite a crowd-pleasing start to his Foxboro tenure, Nordin returned to Earth’s atmosphere during the Pats second preseason contest with the Philadelphia Eagles. He missed a 36-yard field goal and two extra points, each pushing to the right of the goal post. He would, however, connect on a 24-yarder in the fourth quarter to give the Pats a 35-0 lead. It was this ability to bounce back from adversity that caught the eye of his Patriots teammates, as well as special teams coordinator Cam Achord and head coach Bill Belichick. Nordin finished the preseason going 6-of-8 on field goals and 4-of-7 on extra points with longs of 48 and 50 yards.

When the dust settled, Nordin ended cutdown day as a member of the Patriots 53-man roster, seemingly edging out Folk in the kicking competition. Yet another undrafted free agent to make the Patriots initial active roster, Nordin seemed unfazed by the hoopla of continuing a Patriots kicking tradition that includes team legends Gino Cappelletti, Adam Vinatieri and Stephen Gostkowski. In fact, the 23-year-old said he kept busy on cutdown day by talking on the phone with college teammate Carlo Kemp and playing online Monopoly. Having not been notified by the team to inform him of his status, Nordin simply reported to Gillette Stadium for practice.

However, Nordin’s tenure as New England’s starting kicker would be short-lived. After being inactive for the Patriots’ Week One season-opener against the Miami Dolphins, he was placed on injured reserve with an abdomen injury, and has held that designation since September 18.

Folk Still the One

Despite clear potential at the position, Nordin’s designation to return is not expected to cause a changing of the guard at the kicking position. Folk has been one of the most accurate and reliable kickers in the NFL in 2021. The 37-year-old has connected on 31-of-34 field goal attempts, earning AFC Special Teams Player of the Week following the Pats Week Five victory over the Houston Texans. On Sunday, he made 5-of-6 field goals, from 22, 37, 44, 28 and 52 yards respectively. 

Still, the veteran has been limited in practice for the past several weeks listed with a left knee injury. With practice squad kicker Riley Patterson having signed with the Detroit Lions, Nordin’s presence at practice will help to lessen Folk’s workload, while saving wear and tear on his knee. Most importantly, it will give the rookie some regular season practice experience, which will be useful to him heading into 2022 training camp. Barring any further injury to Folk, Nordin would likely return to IR at the conclusion of his 21-day activation window, thus ending his season.

As for 2022, it still may be too early to tell whether Nordin can solidify a future role within the organization. Should he use every opportunity to prove he is both consistent and reliable, Quinn Nordin’s exciting skill set could make things interesting in Foxboro sooner rather than later.