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Weatherford Thinks the Punt Search Is Over


Steve Weatherford is an interesting fellow to have laid claim to the Jets' punting job this season.

He sports as many tattoos as he does destination decals on his luggage. He can wear his hair spiky short, as he is now, or stringy long, as he did while with the Saints. A kinesiology major at Illinois, he can be spotted on the Jets' locker room floor rolling his calves atop a foam leg saver.

But probably of most importance to Jets fans who have been through a litany of punters this off-season (T.J. Conley, Eric Wilbur, Reggie Hodges, Ken Parrish, Glenn Pakulak and A.J. Trapasso before him), Weatherford offers a quiet confidence that the Green & White wrestleback tournament is over.

"I've been looking forward to getting in here and doing a real solid, consistent job for the team," he told this week. "And I think their search is over."

Weatherford, 26, even won the Jets' latest punting competition when he came in, prevailed in a punt-off against Trapasso (awarded on waivers Sunday), and signed a contract Monday.

"I got in at 2 a.m. the night before I worked out," he said. "I got about 4½ hours of sleep, then I woke up running. I was excited to be here and get the opportunity to work out for such a great franchise. It worked out well."

Head coach Rex Ryan and special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff began their quest to find the next Jets punter once they first released Hodges in April, and they kept finding a lack of consistency in all the leg men they tried out.

Ryan hasn't proclaimed Weatherford as "Ray Guy" yet, but this week he's had favorable evaluations of the new man's practice efforts.

On Tuesday, Rex said: "The one we brought in beat the other one out, so we'll go from there. He's wearing No. 9 right now but we'll probably change that since we had about eight punters try to wear that."

Then on Wednesday: "That guy looked good today. We'll see what happens, but I feel pretty good about him."

And Thursday, Westhoff met with reporters and said Weatherford "has punted in the league and had done a pretty nice job. Jacksonville was flirting with the idea of keeping him and releasing their veteran. So we took a shot and we think it will be fine. He's punted very well so far in practice. We just hope it will continue."

The Jaguars may have been swayed by Adam Podlesh's fine 46.4-yard net on nine punts this preseason compared to Weatherford's 32.3 on eight punts.

But that was the anomaly for him as a fourth-year pro. From 2006 through last season, he's had 199 career punts (166 for the Saints) with averages of 43.5 gross and 36.4 net. And the past four preseasons he's had 46 punts for 46.2 gross and 39.2 net (even including the 32.3 with the Jags).

"I'm feeling pretty good. I've kind of been trying to get my legs back under me. I'm playing catchup right now," he said. "But I feel like I'm hitting the ball great. Mike Westhoff's résumé precedes him, he's a legendary special teams coach and I'm excited to get the opportunity to play for him.

"James Dearth is a great guy and a great snapper, so it makes it easy for me. I've been watching him for years. And I knew coming in here that I'd be taking snaps from him and then being able to work with Jay Feely. I've known him for years as well. Those are two professional guys, very professional about how they carry themselves and how they get things done. I try to model myself after guys like that."

To which Weatherford's new next-locker neighbor, Kris Jenkins, chuckled.

"I just want to know how he models himself after somebody he's the same age as," Jenkins said.

Weatherford, who's referred to Big Jenk as a teddy bear, "I'm really excited to be locker mates with this guy."

Jets fans have to be excited that the punt search could be at an end. But that of course will only be determined by gameday results, by how well Weatherford (who continues to wear No. 9) punts and also by how well he holds for Feely.

And because we have a Special Teams Saturday ahead here at, we'll bring you Part 2 of the Weatherford story regarding the fine art of placekick snapping and holding and why Weatherford, Feely and Dearth all feel that won't be an issue for the new punter in town. For a hint at how that story will go, think Dan Marino. Check back with us for that piece Saturday midday.

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