SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Former Pro Bowl kicker Nick Folk signed with the Arizona Hotshots of the Alliance of American Football on Saturday, making him the second longtime NFL veteran kicker, along with Nick Novak, to join the first-year developmental league this season.
That came a day after Folk tried out for the Chicago Bears, who ended up signing Redford Jones. After Folk was out of football last season, returning to the AAF -- and the state where he played college football at Arizona -- became alluring for the 34-year-old.
"The biggest thing, I still have a passion to play. I still want to prove I can play," Folk told ESPN on Saturday night. "And it's a good opportunity for me to show that. I ended my time in Tampa with that injury, and my last game being hurt I wasn't able to perform at my best, and I want to show people that I'm back to kicking well."
Folk played the first four games of his 2017 season with Tampa Bay with severe tendinitis in his left knee -- his plant leg -- and required surgery from Dr. James Andrews after being placed on injured reserve on Oct. 9 that year and released months later.
Folk told ESPN when he had the surgery that the severity of his tendinitis was worse than initially thought, and it took three months to recover. In the weeks before he ended up on injured reserve, Folk said he had to walk up and down stairs one foot and one step at a time.
"It was so painful to take that 6-to-8-inch step up and step," Folk said. "Shooting pain through my patella and to the back of my knee cap."
Folk said he played through the pain -- a lesser version of it -- his final season with the Jets. He thought he could play through it again with Tampa Bay, but he couldn't, so he had surgery to fix the injury. He has been kicking -- and healthy -- for a little more than a year after missing five field goals and two extra points in four games with the Buccaneers, including three in a 19-14 loss to New England in what turned out to be his last game with the club.
Folk said he had spoken with the Alliance in the past but didn't want to sign during the NFL season because of the fluidity of kicking jobs and turnover in the league. After going to Chicago and kicking well -- but not earning a job -- he boarded a plane from Chicago late Friday night, landed after midnight Saturday morning, signed with Arizona and went to practice a few hours later.
"Kind of a whirlwind, but it'll be fun," Folk said. "It'll be good."
Folk was a sixth-round pick by Dallas in 2007. That season, he made the Pro Bowl. He played 11 seasons in the NFL -- three with the Cowboys, seven with the Jets and one with Tampa Bay. In his 11-year career, Folk made $14,625,354, according to Spotrac.
Folk is No. 50 on the NFL's all-time points list, with 1,077. In his seven years with New York, he amassed 729 points, the second-most in team history. He played in 154 career games, making 245 of 305 field goals (80.3 percent) with a career long of 56 yards. He made three of four career playoff field goal attempts. Folk made at least 75 percent of his field goals in all but two of his seasons in the league: 64.3 percent in 2009 with Dallas and 54.5 percent in four games in Tampa, which led to his release.
He made 98.8 percent of his extra points in his career -- something that won't matter in the AAF because there are no extra points (or kickoffs) in the league. Like many other AAF hopefuls, Folk hopes this could be a chance back to the NFL.
"Yeah, for sure," Folk said. "I think a lot of guys do."