October 10, 2020 | 10:28pm
Sam Ficken spent time this offseason trying to keep his kicks out of the sand traps.
The Jets kicker had to get creative once COVID-19 restrictions went into place. He was no longer permitted to kick on the high school field near his parents’ farm in Valparaiso, Ind. So, Ficken got permission from a local golf course to practice his kicks on their fairways.
“The groundskeeper would come out and mow the lawn, and I would be kicking down the fairway, trying to move as much as I could and not tear up the grass,” Ficken recalled this week with a chuckle.
The golf course method has been effective for Ficken. He is 8-for-8 on field goal tries this season, one of the few bright spots for the 0-4 Jets. He made five field goals last week against the Broncos.
After going 19-for-27 on field goal attempts last season, Brett Maher was brought in to compete for the job this season. The 27-year-old is in his second season with the Jets. The team picked him up in Week 2 last year after going through three other kickers in the preseason and Week 1. He stabilized the kicker spot, but did miss eight field goals, going 19-for-27 on his tries. A closer look, though, shows three of those misses came from beyond 50 yards and only one was from inside the 40. With no preseason games, the pressure was on the kickers to make their kicks in practice. Ficken came through.
Still, the Jets signed Brett Maher in January to compete with Ficken, who said he expected the team to bring in competition.
“After the season I had last year, I knew, look, it’s up to me,” Ficken said. “If I make my kicks, they’re probably going to keep me. If I don’t, they’ll probably get rid of me. That’s the nature of this business.”
“I think it elevated the pressure in practice a little bit,” Ficken said. “Obviously, everyone focuses on the preseason games in a normal year, which can be a good or a bad thing depending on how those games go.”
Ficken won the job out of training camp over Maher and has been reliable for the Jets so far.
“I think he’s had an outstanding year thus far,” special teams coordinator Brant Boyer said. “Hopefully he continues, which I think he will. I think one thing that gets lost is last year he took six or seven more kicks over 45-plus yards than anybody in the league. I think he prepares like a pro, comes to work every day, comes in early, stays late, does a nice job of preparing and taking care of his body. I think the world of him. He’s got plenty of leg and he’s consistent. I think he’s done a really nice job thus far and look forward to him continuing to do so.”
The Jets activated RB Le’Veon Bell off of IR, a move that was expected. Bell has missed the past three games with a hamstring injury. They also signed OL Jimmy Murray to the active roster off the practice squad and elevated QB Mike White and CB Lamar Jackson off the practice squad. White will be Joe Flacco’s backup. To clear the two roster spots, the team released LB Alec Ogletree and WR Josh Malone.
Two Jets were fined for infractions from last week’s loss to the Broncos. DT Quinnen Williams was fined $25,000 for two separate infractions. He was fined $15,000 for roughing Broncos QB Brett Rypien and $10,000 for unnecessary roughness for his facemask penalty on Rypien. NT Steve McLendon was fined $15,000 for roughing Rypien near the end of the game.