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Jets rookie kicker Matt Ammendola suddenly is one of the NFL's top punters

Jets kicker Matt Ammendola (6) celebrates a field

Jets kicker Matt Ammendola (6) celebrates a field goal in the second quarter of a preseason NFL game against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium, Friday, Aug. 27, 2021. Credit: Corey Sipkin

Matt Ammendola of the Jets is a rookie placekicker who never has attempted a regular-season NFL field goal or extra point.

But after Sunday’s games, he ranked eighth in the NFL in punting with a 48.5-yard average on six tries, and his 65-yarder was tied for the longest in the league in Week 1.

"It was a whirlwind," he said of his bizarre debut in the Jets’ opener in a Charlotte, a 19-14 loss to the Panthers.

It began when punter Braden Mann suffered a knee injury early in the game that coach Robert Saleh said will sideline him for at least four to six weeks.

Enter Ammendola, who never had punted in a game at any level — not high school, not college and certainly not the pros.

He practiced punting in the offseason only to make him more versatile and thus potentially more useful for an NFL team to sign.

"First NFL game to go out there and punt was definitely a changeup, for sure," he said.

For his first kick, he had to set up in his own end zone. "Not the way you want to start," he said. His punt traveled 50 yards.

On his second attempt, he delivered a 65-yarder. "Surreal," he said. "I just kind of went through the motions, just trying to be smooth and kind of execute the kick."

Saleh praised Ammendola but said the Jets expect to bring in punters for tryouts this week. Ammendola, 24, said he might be capable of being a regular NFL punter but would need a few years to work on that task.

What mattered on Sunday was that he was prepared when called upon.

"You study for a test, more than likely you’ll do well," he said. "With kicking, same thing. I’ve been studying this technique for a long time. You never know when you’re going to have that pop quiz, and you just have to be ready."

New York Sports