Vikings returner a test for Cowboys' Bailey

IRVING, Texas – Dan Bailey is tied for second in the NFL in touchbacks this season with 34. And to think the Dallas Cowboys kept a kickoff specialist in 2011 because they didn't think Bailey had a strong-enough leg.

Bailey admits he has added leg strength in his three seasons to help on kickoffs.

“It was just a big focus for me in the offseason,” Bailey said. “I wanted to get a little bit stronger and I thought as far as my game goes that was the area I could improve the most. I feel like I can always improve all areas. I just felt like that needed a little more attention. So far this year I feel good on kickoffs. I feel like I’ve been hitting the ball well.”

Bailey faces his biggest challenge this season in the Minnesota VikingsCordarrelle Patterson, who leads the NFL with a 39.1-yard kick-return average and has touchdown returns of 109 and 105 yards.

“Patterson is a fantastic kickoff returner,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “He’s taken two of them back. He took one back 109 yards last week, so that’s certainly been a real weapon for their football team. Dan has been fantastic this year. … He kicks them consistently long and deep and high and hard for those guys to bring them back.”

The Cowboys have not necessarily kicked away from returners this year.

“In this league every return man is good,” Bailey said. “Some are slightly better than others, but everybody is pretty much capable of having that home-run play. We prepare for him just like we prepare for anybody else. I wouldn’t say we give him any special attention. We’re going to do our best to execute our game plan as best we can, and I’m sure they’re going to do the same thing. I think it’ll be a good challenge.”