Guessing which undrafted rookies have a shot to earn a roster spot is as inexact a science as anything in sports.
That said, one undrafted rookie who has been predicted by many to have a legitimate chance to end up on the Dallas Cowboys' regular-season roster is Dan Bailey, the record-setting kicker from Oklahoma State. Incumbent David Buehler remains the favorite to retain his position, but after connecting on 24 of 32 field goal attempts last season, Buehler has competition for his job.
Bailey is not just a warm body brought into camp by the Cowboys to lighten Buehler's workload. As a senior in 2010, Bailey won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top collegiate kicker and was named the Big 12 Conference's Special Teams Player of the Year. A former walk-on when he first arrived in Stillwater, Bailey ended up his career as the all-time leading scorer in Oklahoma State history — no small accomplishment at a school that also produced the likes of Thurman Thomas and Barry Sanders. Bailey's 27 field goals last year set a single-season record at OSU, and his average of 11.6 points per game was the second-highest mark in the nation.
Training camp has only been open for a few days, but Bailey said he is enjoying the experience so far.
"It's been awesome," he said. "It's just a real good experience to come into this scenario and see what you've got, and test your skills against guys that have been doing it awhile. It's a good personal test for me."
With the league reducing active game day rosters from 47 players to 46 in 2011, it is unlikely that the Cowboys will revert to their 2009 arrangement, when Buehler was the team's kickoff specialist (before also handling placekicks last season). So Bailey knows that in order to stick with the team, he likely will have to beat Buehler out for a roster spot. Nonetheless, he said he is trying not to put too much pressure on himself.
"Just stay focused," Bailey said when asked what his primary objective is each day in the team's Alamodome camp. "Keep working hard, and try not to put too much stock in preseason or training camp. Just approach every kick the same way and go out there and do your job and really don't worry about what setting or scenario you're in."
Although they both understand that more than likely, one of them will be looking for work elsewhere by the end of the preseason, Bailey said there is no animosity between the two.
"There's no hard feelings," Bailey said. "We're both kickers and we both know what we need to do and what are job is. All you can do is worry about yourself. I'm sure David feels the same way, so just go out there and make your kicks and don't really put any stock into the competition the next day."
Part of Bailey's success, he said, is that he has developed the trait every kicker needs: a short memory. Like a pitcher who gives up a home run and has to face the next batter, kickers have to be able to forget any missed kicks.
"You have to," said Bailey, who missed his first kick of training camp Sunday. "I'm going to go home and look at it on tape, but you can't sit there and dwell on it. You've just got to move onto the next one and make it through.
"You want make all of your kicks and do the best you can. But it's early – it's only the third or fourth practice – so we've got a long time to go."
Bailey Putting Best Foot Forward
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