Giants punter Feagles retires, NFL's oldest player
After 22 NFL seasons, Jeff Feagles still had the desire and passion to play. His body didn't.
The 44-year-old New York Giant announced his retirement on Friday after a league-record 352 consecutive games.
The decision was made a little less than two weeks ago while he ate breakfast with his wife, Michelle.
``I just got out of bed and the good Lord told me and sent me a sign that day and said: 'You know what? You're done! You're finished!'' Feagles said. ``I just didn't feel good. My back was hurting. My knee was starting to swell up again and I said to myself I can't do this anymore. That's when I decided to start the coffee pot. It was quick.''
Feagles had signed a contract earlier this month to play another season, but he had second thoughts after experiencing some physical problems while getting ready for next season.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin asked Feagles to take 24 hours to reconsider his decision but the extra night's sleep didn't change anything.
Feagles leaves the NFL with the most career punts (1,713), most punts inside the 20-yard line (554) and most career punting yards (71,211).
Feagles insisted he has taken his last swing, adding he is not about to pull a Brett Favre - who holds the consecutive games record for a position player. He might punt with his four children, but that will be the extent of it.
Matt Dodge, the East Carolina punter who was drafted in the seventh round, and former Australian rules football player Jy Bond will compete for the Feagles' job.
However, both will have a tough time replacing Feagles, who Coughlin called one of the greatest Giants of all time.
Coughlin said he will always have a vision of one Feagles' punts being downed inside the 10-yard line.
``He was a guy I always knew I could count on, always knew exactly what was to be expected,'' Coughlin said.
Feagles spent his last seven seasons with the Giants. He also played for New England, Philadelphia, Arizona and Seattle. One of a remaining few directional punters in the league, he had a 41.6-yard career gross average and a 35.9-yard net average.
Feagles never missed a game in his career, although he came close twice. He broke the radial head of his elbow on his drop hand in Seattle making a tackle but played through it. While with the Giants, he also was questionable for his 300th game because of a knee injury. It was a game he had no intention of missing.
``As an undrafted free agent in 1988, I would never have thought I could have played this wonderful game for 22 seasons,'' Feagles said. ``I appreciated all the National Football League has given me. One thing I never did was take anything for granted in my career. I was always grateful to have a job and to be able to take care of my family.
``I always had a fear of losing my job and tried to always work harder than the next guy,'' he said. ``I always wanted to be the best at my position and do everything I could to help the team win.''
Feagles smiled when asked about some of his more memorable punts. There was the game against the Giants here in 2002 when the-then Seattle Seahawk punted six times for a 47.8 yard average, landing three inside the 20-yard line in a 9-6 win.
The performance was so impressive, the Giants signed him as a free agent during the offseason.
Feagles said he loved kicking in the windy confines of Giants Stadium, calling it a challenge that he overcame with plenty of practice. The knowledge he gained from those workouts he never shared with opposing punters.
Feagles also recalled the anxiety of his first punt in the Super Bowl in 2008.
``Knowing you run out on that field and you've waited so long to get to that game,'' Feagles said. ``Being a veteran you think everything is going to be OK. I was so nervous that kick, thinking 'this is ridiculous.'''
The former University of Miami product said some returners got into his head, like Brian Mitchell. It was one of the reasons he started developing his directional punts, to limit the returns.
``I am not going to be able to kick to DeSean Jackson this year and that upsets me,'' Feagles quipped about the Philadelphia Eagles exciting receiver and return specialist.
Feagles was cut once in his career, let go by the Patriots in 1990.
``I vowed this would never happen,'' Feagles said. ``It was horrible. After that I worked extremely hard to say this will never happen again.''
When asked what was the most important thing for a punter, Feagles said consistency, adding he was always able to take one season at a time, one kick at a time.
``It's been a great, great run,'' Feagles said.
Feagles also is the Giants' holder on extra points and field goals.
Recently signed backup quarterback Jim Sorgi has experience holding and Coughlin said he would get the first shot at taking over those jobs.
Feagles was the NFL's second oldest player this past season, behind New Orleans' kicker John Carney. The now 46-year-old Carney was replaced late in the season by Garrett Hartley and now serves the Saints as a kicking consultant.
Dodge averaged 45.8 yards this past season. He was the first punter drafted by the Giants since 1997, when they took Brad Maynard in the third round.
``How this has worked out I couldn't script this any better,'' Dodge said.
Dodge said he was impressed with Bond's leg on Friday.
``Competition is good, it's going to be cool,'' Bond said.