The first question to Sean McDermott on Monday was about a punter.
Sure, it might have been made partly in jest, considering the news of the day was a starting quarterback being named. But it still was a relevant topic.
The Bills made a somewhat surprising swap Sunday when they released Colton Schmidt, their punter the past four seasons, replacing him with rookie Corey Bojorquez, a waiver claim from the New England Patriots. On the surface, that’s not crazy. The Bills were clearly looking to make an upgrade from Schmidt, which they showed by signing former Seahawks punter Jon Ryan a few weeks ago.
Going the veteran route didn’t work – Ryan was released Saturday – so the team instead turned to a rookie who didn’t have so much as a single punt in the preseason for the Patriots.
“I thought I was going to end up on their practice squad, hopefully,” Bojorquez said Monday after his first practice with the Bills. “Not playing in the preseason, I thought, you know, there's no way a team is going to pick me up.”
So what did the Bills see in Bojorquez?
“He's got a strong leg,” McDermott said. “Obviously, you know, he came from New England -- had an interesting preseason. We look forward to getting him out on the field, getting him to work today and building that relationship that's so important with” kicker Stephen Hauschka and long snapper Reid Ferguson.
“I give credit to our scouting staff and the due diligence to be able to locate and target a guy that didn't do a lot on film in the preseason. But we were aware of what he could do coming out of college.”
Bojorquez averaged 45.1 yards on 116 punts while at New Mexico in 2016 and 2017. He had 45 punts inside the opponents' 20-yard line and 43 that traveled 50 or more yards. He said the Bills called him during the NFL Draft to confirm some information, but other than that he did not have contact with them until Sunday.
“It was a surprise,” he said. “Next thing I know, I'm heading back to the hotel, packing up and I'm flying to New York. It's pretty cool.”
McDermott confirmed that Bojorquez will hold for kicker Stephen Hauschka. That gives him just four practices to develop a good chemistry with Hauschka.
‘It's part of the relationship between a punter and a kicker that's got to come along fairly fast at this point in time, “McDermott said. So General Manager Brandon Beane “and I are aware of that. We'll just continue to monitor how that flows through this week, and we'll go from there.”
Bojorquez didn’t sound overly concerned about getting up to speed as the punter.
“I've done it since high school,” he said. “A lot of people for whatever reason have a lot of concern with me holding, saying I haven't done it and stuff, which I don't understand. … New Mexico, I held my junior year in a couple games, but they had a punter there before me that held for the last three years, and the kicker was comfortable with him. Then I held my senior year. When I was with the Patriots, I held for Gostkowski there, so it wasn't anything new. Like, I've held since I started playing football.
“It's putting the laces where Stephen wants it at. That's all it is.”
Bojorquez said he was disappointed not to get on the field in preseason for the Patriots, but respected the decision. In hindsight, it seems obvious the Patriots were trying to hide Bojorquez, or at least keep him as under the radar as possible. New England coach Bill Belichick said only that “opportunities to play have to be earned.”
“Ultimately it's their decision, there's nothing I can do about it,” Bojorquez said. “I'm not going to sit and complain about it, I'm just going to keep working and get myself better.”
“This team has given me the opportunity, so I'm going to make the most of it.”