|After 20 years, Giants punter to finally play in conference game|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 15 January 2008 13:16|
After 20 seasons, Giants punter Jeff Feagles will make his first appearance in a conference title game Sunday when New York (12-6) faces the Packers (14-3) in Green Bay for the NFC championship.
``It's been a long time since I was that ecstatic winning a football game,'' Feagles said of the Giants stunning 21-17 conference playoff win over the Dallas Cowboys. ``The only thing I can compare it with is when we won the national championship with Miami 20 years ago in college.
``There was a euphoria in the locker room. I understand it's only getting to the championship, but it's a great feeling. It's taking me one step further than I have ever been.''
The fourth oldest active player in the league behind Morten Andersen (47), Vinny Testaverde (44) and John Carney (43), Feagles will become the third oldest at 41 to play in a conference championship game since the NFL and AFL merged in 1970, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Quarterback-kicker George Blanda of Oakland was 48-years old when the Raiders played Pittsburgh in 1976 for the AFC title. Carney, who now plays with the Kansas City Chiefs, was 42 years old when his New Orleans Saints played the Bears for the NFC title last year.
``I didn't even think I would play this long,'' said Feagles, who has played in an NFL record 320 consecutive regular-season games. ``To be honest I thought it would come a lot sooner.''
It didn't because Feagles played on some bad teams in New England, Philadelphia, Arizona and Seattle between 1988-2002. He signed with the Giants in 2003.
In two decades, Feagles has made the playoffs five times. The Giants' win over the Cowboys was only his eighth playoff game, his third win.
``So many times I have looked back and seen guys in the Super Bowl who are rookies that win it or get to it in their first year,'' Feagles said. ``They don't know how lucky they are. Someone who has played as long as I have really understands how special it is to get to this game.''
Feagles has played on a couple of teams that were good enough to make a conference championship game, but something went wrong along the way - injuries, tough luck, bad chemistry.
This Giants team, he said, is special. It found a way to overcame an 0-2 start and succeed, especially on the road where New York has won an NFL single-season record nine in a row.
``This team has been so resilient as far as bucking all the odds and the distractions with us being in the market in which we are,'' Feagles said. ``I love this team. I think the camaraderie, and cohesiveness is there.''
Feagles goes out of his way to praise coach Tom Coughlin for changing.
The old-school, hard-line coach got through to his players by forming an 11-player leadership committee. He discusses his plans with them, and they make sure everyone gets the message.
If problems developed, it was the players who put out the fires and policed the malcontents.
``We have become a closer team,'' Feagles said. ``I think we all believed in each other after we started 0-2 and then ran off six in a row. When we got those six wins, everyone realized we have something special here.''
Winning in Green Bay won't be easy with Brett Favre throwing the ball and the Cheeseheads doing their best to distract the Giants.
With the forecast calling for temperatures in single digits, Feagles knows there is additional pressure on the kicking game.
Cold weather makes the ball slick and hard to catch. It also seems to deaden the ball. A good punt can be one that goes 40 yards and ends in a fair catch. In Feagles case, it also could be a directional punt that goes out of bounds 40 yards down the field.
``I don't care how cold it is as long as we are playing,'' Feagles said.
Finding a way to beat the Packers at Lambeau Field would also take Feagles to more uncharted territory: It would force him to use his Super Bowl tickets.
``Honestly, for the last 19 years I have either sold or given away my tickets for the Super Bowl because I never wanted to go to a Super Bowl until I actually played in it,'' Feagles said. ``Maybe this is the year.''