Jay Feely isn't thrilled with the injury to Mike Nugent that has made him a New York Jet. But he's happy to be wearing Green & White this week and will kick for the Jets for as long as he's needed.
"I went and talked to Mike immediately," Feely said about the Jets kicker, who injured his right thigh early in the Jets' win at Miami. "I told him how sorry I was that I have to be in here under these circumstances. The kickers' fraternity is a very tight community. You know most of the guys. Mike's a guy I've liked, just a nice guy and a very good kicker.
"You hate to come in in that situation, but that's the reality of our job. It's kind of a one-for-one job. My focus is just game by game, kick by kick, try and help this team win."
Head coach Eric Mangini announced at his news conference today that Feely will kick for the Jets in Sunday's home opener against New England and will continue to kick "until Mike gets back."
This situation is a first for Feely. In his seven previous NFL seasons, with Atlanta (2001-04), the Giants ('05-06) and Miami ('07), he'd never been unemployed. His two career moves came about through free agency. But this summer the Dolphins released him, then the Chiefs signed him for a day before throwing him back.
"The only thing I can say is I feel like I'm kicking the best I've ever kicked in my career. I felt like I kicked the ball well last year and I feel like I can continue to do that this year," he said in front of his new locker in the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. "I'm healthy now, I'm kicking the ball great now. I'm looking forward, not backward.
Looking a few seasons back, however, isn't necessarily a bad thing if Feely can build on his recent experiences. He was one of the few highlights of the Dolphins' 1-15 campaign last year, converting 21 of 23 field goals for a franchise-record 91.3 percent accuracy that was second in the NFL behind only Pittsburgh's Jeff Reed.
Add in his two seasons with the Giants and you have the three best seasons of Feely's career. In fact, his 85.9 percent accuracy on 79--for-92 field goal kicking is seventh-best in the NFL from 2005-07 and he's hit 163 consecutive regular-season PATs.
In fact, Mangini said Feely's familiarity with the Meadowlands during his two seasons with Big Blue was one of the reasons he's a Jet today. And Feely said he feels comfortable in the friendly East Rutherford, N.J., confines.
"I studied it a lot when I was with the Giants and we were in there every day kicking," he said. "You learn the winds, you learn how to kick the ball. I actually kicked a little bit differently when I was in Atlanta in a dome."
An avid golfer, as many kickers are, Feely said launching a football into the Meadowlands breezes is "similar to a golf shot when you kind of hit a stinger into the wind where you don't really follow through and let the ball get up into the wind.
"Just the little things like knowing which flags to trust and which ones not to — all those things can give you a homefield advantage."
Of course, for many in the NFL, there is a fine line between having a home field and sitting at home on fall Sundays. The Tampa native and longtime Floridian had a chance to get philosophical this past weekend when the league opened for business without him.
"When you're not playing, it's a humbling experience, especially when you have good years," he said. "I think more than anything, sitting at home watching a game this past Sunday made me want to play a lot more. That vigor and that excitement about playing, after you've done it for a number of years, creeps back in there. All the players who could, should go through that earlier in their careers because it would give them a different perspective and a greater appreciation of the opportunity they have."
Fortunately for Feely, his inactivity didn't last long. He had workouts with two other teams (which he declined to name) besides the Jets, and said he thought he didn't kick as well for ST coaches Mike Westhoff and Kevin O'Dea as he did for the others.
"They were happy but I wasn't happy," he said. "I know the standard I want to hold myself to."
Now Feely, who will wear uniform No. 3 for the Jets (the same number he wore with Miami, although he sported No. 2 with the Giants), will get to reacquaint pro football fans in this area with what that standard is.
"I was very excited to get the opportunity to come up here," he said. "I think it's an organization that wants to win and has the opportunity to win and is in great position in the AFC. It's great to be back in New York where I was comfortable and where I had success."