It’s hard to say a guy who led the Dallas Cowboys in scoring for a sixth consecutive season is looking to bounce back.
But 2016 wasn’t a great season for kicker Dan Bailey. At least by his lofty standards.
Bailey, 29, had the most misses in his career (five) since his rookie season. He also posted a career-worst 84.4 percent conversion percentage (27-of-32).
“Strictly from a performance standpoint, I wish I could have some back but that’s with any kick,” Bailey said. “If it doesn’t go through, you want it back. So, yeah, the fact that that many didn’t’ make it through last year is disappointing on some fronts, but at the same time it’s just the way it is sometimes. You give it your best shot.”
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Maybe a new pair of cleats will get Bailey back on track this season.
Bailey has officially retired his 2007 Nike Vapor spikes that he has been wearing on game day since his rookie season in 2011. He had been using those cleats since his junior season in college, and they were being held together by super glue and duct tape.
Bailey put them away for good in the off-season, and is trying to figure out which model he’ll go with for next season.
But, as he said, “At the end of the day, it’s leather and got laces on it and cleats on the bottom. That’s self talk, too. It’s just personal preference but that’s why I’ve been wearing a bunch of different ones.
“I’m keeping an open mind on which ones I go with because I’ve been wearing the same one for so long. The technology has changed, so I’ve just got to try it out.”
Those cleats served Bailey well, though. He became one of the most reliable kickers in NFL history with them. He’s connected on 89.5 percent of his attempts, which is the second-best percentage in NFL history behind Baltimore’s Justin Tucker (89.8 percent).
Bailey had the best percentage until his five misses last season. But Bailey hasn’t lost much sleep over it. Three of his five misses were from 50-plus yards.
“One in particular, the 55-yard [attempt] at New York hit the bar,” Bailey said. “It was 30-something degrees outside. I don’t know if I could hit that ball better ever. So those you’re not as disappointed about because it’s all you could do at the time.”
Bailey had misses from 56 and 52 in Week 14 against Tampa Bay, only the second time he’s missed multiple field goals in games. His other two misses were from 47 in consecutive games in Week 3 against Chicago and Week 4 at San Francisco.
But Bailey’s job isn’t in jeopardy. He had plenty of highs such as tying his career long with a 56-yard field goal in the season opener against the Giants; making the longest field goal in Heinz Field history (53 yards); and remaining perfect on point-after attempts in his career (250-for-250).
Bailey also battled back issues much of the season after a bad night’s rest in San Francisco, but didn’t use that as an excuse for his misses. He is fully healthy now.
And it’s shown early on in training camp. Bailey has gone 18-for-18 on field goals.
The Cowboys face Arizona in the Hall of Fame Game Thursday night in Canton, Ohio.
“I feel good,” Bailey said. “I feel good physically. The operation has been good. [Punter Chris Jones] and [long-snapper L.P. Ladouceur], we’ve all been together for seven years now, so the comfort level there is great.
“It’s just trying to stack those days together. You have a little bit longer camp this year, so it’s good to get a good foundation now and start off well.”
Added coach Jason Garrett: "Dan Bailey is a machine. He’s a machine on the field, he’s a machine off the field. And his approach is as good approach of any kicker, really any player, that I’ve ever been around. He just goes about it the right way. He’s a true pro. He’s one of those guys who is always ready for the opportunity. I think studying what he did last year both good and bad is a part of that.”