If punting were as easy as it was in a video game, Matt Dodge would have punted the ball out-of-bounds and kept it away from DeSean Jackson, Steve Weatherford says.
If only ...
“I’ve been in a situation similar to that,” said Weatherford, who will have the daunting task Sunday of trying to keep the ball away from Jackson, the electrifying return man who ripped out the hearts of Giants fans on Dec. 19, 2010 when he took back Dodge’s ill-advised shank 65 yards for a walk-off touchdown.
“If you play long enough, every punter’s gonna be in a situation like that. It was just unfortunate that it happened that way. I think there’s a lot of things that went wrong prior to that, and I think Matt kind of unfairly got the brunt of it. But at the same time, that’s our job and that’s what we’re supposed to do. But it’s not like a Madden video game where you point the arrow and push ‘X.’ There’s some skill involved in it.”
Weatherford was seen in practice on Friday hitting several kicks to both sidelines. He said he’s been given the same instructions that Dodge was given by head coach Tom Coughlin nine months ago.
Under no circumstances should you punt the ball to DeSean Jackson. None!
“It’s kind of a situation where I know what my job is,” Weatherford said. “I’m gonna do my best to do that. Hopefully I’m successful, but if there is a punt that he gets his hands on, I feel fully confident in our coverage team. That’s never something that I’ve doubted. I’ve got one of the best long-snappers in the game, and I feel really good about my protection in coverage.
“I’m looking forward to the challenge. I play the guy twice a year so I better get used to it.”
The 28-year-old Weatherford, who beat out Dodge for the Giants’ punting job in training camp, has punted 13 times this season for an average of 45.6 yards. He’s nailed two punts inside the 20-yard line, and is netting 37.8 yards per punt through the first two weeks of the regular season.
Weatherford, who last season tied an NFL record by booting 42 balls inside the 20, will be the first to admit his strength is directional punting, something he says has kept him in this game and he hopes will continue to keep him in the NFL for years to come.
On the other hand ...
“Matt wasn’t a directional punter, so to say it was unfair to expect him to do that, no because he’s a professional punter. But Matt’s strengthen was power and hang time, it wasn’t placement,” Weatherford said. “That was a very tough situation for him to be in because obviously you guys think oh all he has to do is punt it out of bounds, but you know he had to punt it out of bounds at least 35 or 40 yards, because if he wasn’t gonna do that they would’ve been in field goal range, so there were a lot of things that were going through his mind prior to the kick as well.”
Weatherford said he didn’t feel it was his place to bring up the punt, but him and Dodge talked about it during camp.
“I didn’t bring it up, but we did speak about it during training camp,” Weatherford said. “I wasn’t gonna be the type of guy to kind of interview him about it because I knew it was a sore subject, but he kind of brought it up to me and we spoke about it a bit.”
Weatherford knows the stakes on Sunday. He knows his role. And he’s seen what can happen if he screws up.
So he’s going to try not to ... Whether he’s successful, however, remains to be seen.