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Hodges' Long Road Has Led Him to the Jets


He's about to make his first NFL regular-season appearance since 2005, but don't expect Reggie Hodges to be shaken by the spotlight of Monday Night Football.

"That's nothing to be nervous about," Hodges said in his first interview with Jets reporters today. "That's something you relish. You want to be on the stage and show what you can do and help the team."

Hodges originally entered the NFL as the sixth-round draft choice of St. Louis in 2005 and punted for the Rams and Eagles that season. He had since punted with three other teams — the Colts and Seahawks in preseason and as a member of the Patriots' practice squad earlier this month — before landing with the Jets on Tuesday.

The Jets' new No. 6 found his talent for punting during high school, where he also spent time under center. Head coach Eric Mangini, who always appreciates versatility, pointed out at his Wednesday news conference that Hodges' quarterback experience could come in handy in terms of fakes.

After four years as Ball State's punter, Hodges struggled to find consistency in the NFL. Although he has come a long way, he still feels he is learning.

"I've grown as a person and a punter," he said. "Sometimes it takes guys a while to figure out how to consistently punt at a high level, and I was one of those guys. I'm still learning, but I'm to a point where coaches are feeling more comfortable with my technique and the things I can do."

After honing his skills in various training camps and kicking clinics over the past couple of years, Hodges impressed the Jets coaching staff enough to earn a spot as the team's new punter.

"I don't know what impressed them" he said of winning the job. "I try to hit the ball hard and hit it high to give the coverage unit lots of time to make plays. The net is my goal, not gross punts."

He will also take over holding duties for the Jets without missing a beat. He served as holder throughout college and his previous preseasons in the NFL, and looks forward to building that trust with kickers Jay Feely and Mike Nugent.

Ben Graham, a positive locker room presence and former special teams captain, was waived Tuesday evening. Long snapper James Dearth formed a close relationship with Graham since the Australian Football League player joined the team after the 2004 season.

"For a while there, every year we had a new punter," said Dearth, who's been the Jets' long snapper since 2001. "Then when Ben was here, we had the punter for three years.

"But this is the business side of football. I'm looking forward to working with Reggie."

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