Giants punter Feagles changes mind, decides to retire at age 44

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After 22 NFL seasons, Jeff Feagles still had the desire and passion to play. His body wouldn't let him.

The 44-year-old New York Giant announced his retirement Friday after a league-record 352 consecutive games.

The decision was made a little less than two weeks ago while Feagles 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 preparing for the 2010 campaign.

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 that he has taken his last swing, adding he isn't about to pull a Brett Favre - who holds the consecutive games record for a position player. Feagles might punt with his four children, but that will be the extent of it.

Matt Dodge, the East Carolina punter whom the Giants drafted in the seventh round last week, and former Australian Rules Football player Jy Bond will compete for the Feagles' job.

However, both will have a tough time replacing Feagles, whom Coughlin called one of the greatest Giants of all time.

Coughlin said he will always have a vision of one of 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, but he also played for the New England Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks during his career. One of a remaining few directional punters in the league, Feagles 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 his elbow in Seattle while making a tackle, but he 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. 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 in 2002 when the then-Seahawk punted six times for a 47.8-yard average, landing three inside the 20-yard line in a 9-6 Seattle victory.

The performance was so impressive that the Giants signed Feagles 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. He never shared the knowledge that he gained from those workouts 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 University of Miami product said some returners, such as Brian Mitchell, got into his head. It was one of the reasons that Feagles 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, 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.

"It's been a great, great run."

Feagles also is the Giants' holder on extra-point and field-goal attempts. Jim Sorgi has experience holding, and Coughlin said the recently signed backup quarterback would have the first shot at taking over those jobs.

Feagles was the NFL's second-oldest player this past season, behind New Orleans Saints 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 at East Carolina. 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 added that he was impressed with Bond's leg Friday.

"Competition is good," Bond said. "It's going to be cool."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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