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Tom Coughlin emotional after Giants release punter Steve Weatherford

Steve Weatherford's farewell address to Giants

If Tom Coughlin had to pick 53 people to surround himself with for the next four to five months, Steve Weatherford would have a pretty good shot at being one of them.

"He's been just an exceptional, exceptional human being," Coughlin said Friday afternoon. "The enthusiasm, the passion, the way that he had a unique ability to touch people in all parts of life . . . Steve had a very unique ability to come into a room, be the light in the room, and get people excited and emotional or speak to them in remarks which showed compassion."

But Coughlin's 53-man roster is based on football and not feelings. So on Friday he and the team made the difficult decision to replace their punter from the previous four seasons. The Giants released Weatherford and traded a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2016 draft to the Steelers in exchange for their punter, Brad Wing.

"It's not something that's done lightly," Coughlin said. "There have been evaluations that have gone on from the first day of training camp. The results are what we decided needed to be done at this time."

Coughlin thought so highly of Weatherford that he refused to answer any questions about his new punter.

"This," he said, "is Steve's day."

It likely was far from Weatherford's favorite with the team. That honor probably would belong to the 2011 NFC Championship Game against the 49ers, when Weatherford held for the game-winning field goal by Lawrence Tynes, ripped off his helmet and sprinted around the field like a madman.

"You remember the guy who was going wild on the field, it was Steve," Coughlin said. "That was an experience unto itself."

The move should not come as a shock to those who closely parse Coughlin's words. Just this week he noted that Weatherford was competing for his job, and not just with Robert Malone, the other punter on the roster, who was released Tuesday.

"There's a [preseason] game to go and it's going to be a competitive thing, not necessarily with the guys that are here," Coughlin said Tuesday.

Coughlin said Weatherford had been "off and on" this preseason.

"What we're always after is directional, hang time, distance, location, hang and the opportunity to put us in the best position from a coverage standpoint," Coughlin said earlier this week. "Basically for me, it's always been put it outside the numbers."

That's not where Weatherford was Thursday night against the Patriots, putting his kicks closer to the middle of the field than the sideline. He finished the preseason with an average net of 45.0 yards on 16 punts.

Weatherford also had other numbers going against him. According to NFLPA records, his base salary was scheduled to be $2.175 million for 2015 and $2.325 million for 2016. He had the sixth-highest cap number of any punter in the league this season at $3.075 million. Wing, who is 24, is due to make $540,000 this season.

Wing punted at LSU -- he was a teammate of Rueben Randle and Odell Beckham Jr. -- and 2014 was his first full NFL season. He punted 61 times with a 43.7-yard average for the Steelers and landed 20 inside the 20-yard line. His average of 8.2 yards per return ranked 12th in the NFL and his net average of 38.8 was 20th. He also threw a two-point conversion pass to tight end Matt Spaeth against the Ravens in Week 9.

"He's a great guy," Randle said. "Very strong leg, very good at placing the ball where he wants to."

Coughlin speaks to all of the players the Giants part ways with, and he'll have a full schedule of those chats this weekend as the team reduces its numbers to 53 by the Saturday deadline.

"It's not an easy thing," Coughlin said. "It's a difficult thing. It's emotional in many ways. But every player who comes into the league, every coach, understands that this is part of it. Even though it's by far one of the least popular things that has to happen, it still nevertheless needs to be done."

Coughlin said he spoke with Weatherford at length on Friday, and not about net averages or outside-the-numbers stuff.

"As he put it, the furthest thing from his mind at that time was to speak about football," Coughlin said. "He was very, very gracious speaking about his experience with the New York Giants and what it's meant to him and his family and how he'll always cherish his four years that he spent here with us."

Apparently Coughlin does as well.

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