If you ever wondered where Jay Feely’s coming from, it helps to know where he’s going to this weekend.
"I’m not a numbers guy. You’ll have to look it up. I don’t remember missing and kicks there," the kicker said when asked how he’s fared in that venerable ballpark by the bay, where the Jets will play the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. "But I know my first game of my career was at Candlestick."
True enough. When Atlanta visited the Niners on opening day in 2001, Feely was the Falcons’ rookie kicker. He took me on a trip down memory lane to that game, which explains a lot about his frame of mind as he has put together an 11-game streak as the Jets’ kicker despite the presence of Mike Nugent on the active roster.
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"I know I made a couple of kicks, we went into overtime and I didn’t get a field goal in overtime," he recalled. "You think back to those beginning days and there was so much hope and yet uncertainty at the same time.
"Then you move forward a number of years and now you have a lot of confidence, and that confidence is rooted in the fact that you’ve been there before. You’ve failed and not allowed that failure to break you, and that fuels more confidence.
"I think when you go through really tough times and you’re able to bounce back, that gives you a lot of confidence — and a lot of fearlessness."
I suggested to Feely that more than a few Jets fans must think he’s felt some of that old insecurity ever since coming to the Jets after Nugent injured his right thigh in the opener at Miami. He didn’t see it that way.
"It didn’t apply to me, though," he said. "There was uncertainty in my circumstances, but there was never uncertainty for me in my ability to perform.
"I was talking to Reggie the other day about that," he said of Reggie Hodges, the Jets’ punter and holder. "That’s one of the advantages of being a veteran. When all the world says ‘Ohhh, he missed a kick,’ you’re like ‘Ahhh, I’ve been through a lot worse situations than this.’ "
His Jets launch was "definitely different." After getting cut by two teams this summer — the Chiefs signed him, then released him the next day — he said he had to reverse the usual process, building relationships with new teammates (not to mention a new fan base) only after he performed, not after a long off-season and preseason of work.
Feely missed four of his first 14 field goal tries as a Jet, but head coach Eric Mangini and special teams coaches Mike Westhoff and Kevin O’Dea stayed with him. Lately he’s caught fire, hitting his last 11 kicks. That includes his franchise-record-tying long of 55 yards vs. St Louis and the 34-yard gamewinner at New England.
I cant tell you Feely will be kicking in the sometimes windy, sometimes slick conditions on Candlestick Point. In fact, he has never missed a placement here, having hit three FGs and seven PATs in three games.
But Nugent was not listed on the week’s injury report for the first time since he got hurt, and Mangini declines to declare a kicker until 90 minutes before each game, by when he must declare his inactive players.
Yet it will be no surprise if it’s Feely. As he said about the ‘Stick but could just as well have remarked about his situation this season:
"It’s easier said than done, but you can’t allow the factors to change your technique. You have to account for them and make adjustments but not change your technique. That’s the key."
Tags: Eric Mangini, Jay Feely, Mike Nugent, San Francisco 49ers
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