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With Weatherford ailing, Feely adds punting to duties

New York Jets kicker Jay Feely (3) celebrates

New York Jets kicker Jay Feely (3) celebrates with New York Jets tackle Damien Woody (67) after Feely kicked a field goal against the Cincinnati Bengals. (January 9, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

CINCINNATI - Hardly anyone noticed when Jay Feely took a couple of quick warm-up punts before the game started. But when he came onto the field to punt in the first quarter, it was obvious something was different.

Feely, the Jets' placekicker, added the punting duties to his job Saturday after Steve Weatherford was sidelined by an irregular heartbeat that came on about 10 minutes before the game started. Weatherford described it as a hereditary, non-life-threatening condition that he's had to deal with from time to time since he was 16 years old.

"It was the most inopportune time for it to happen," he said.

Weatherford's heart wasn't the only one racing.

"They came and told me, and my first thought was, 'Oh, crap!' " Feely said. "But you go out and just try to do your best. That was definitely the most nervous I've ever been in an NFL game, before that first punt."

But Feely was up for the challenge. He punted seven times, putting three inside the 20 and one at the 20, and even managed to use kick angles that kept the ball away from Bengals returners and bounced it out of bounds. At least that's the way it seemed.

"There were no directional punts," Feely said. "I just wanted to catch it and get it off."

It was a busy day for Feely, and not just because of the extra workload. He whiffed on a tackle on the opening kickoff that nearly led to a Bengals touchdown. Then he kicked a 42-yard field goal in the third quarter that was wiped out by a holding penalty, kicked a 52-yarder on the next snap that was waved off by a false start, and eventually punted.

Feely said the punting helped his kicking.

"Normally, when you're kicking a field goal, there's a little bit of pressure and you're trying to mentally regulate yourself," he said. "I didn't have any of that this game. I was just so happy to be kicking a field goal. It was great."

Weatherford said he should be healthy enough to resume punting in next week's game and said it was difficult sitting out. He even tried to sneak back onto the field against doctors' orders and get into the game midway through the first quarter.

"I wanted nothing more than to go out and play," he said. "I felt like I was letting the guys down today because it's not like I have a backup."

At least none that he knew about.

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