- Chris Mortensen, NFL reporter
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No, Jeff Feagles isn't coming out of retirement at age 44 to punt again for the New York Giants as young Matt Dodge's struggles continued in their 17-3 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday night, but he did recommend that the team hire a sports psychologist to work with the rookie punter.
"I told Jerry Reese [Giants general manager] a couple of weeks ago that Matt has all the physical talent in the world but that maybe bringing in a sports psychologist can really help him," said Feagles. "Mentally, there's just a part of this game, especially with punters and kickers, that you have to overcome. This kid, I've seen him kick it to the moon on the side practice field and then you put him behind a line and sometimes he can't kick it out of a paper bag. That's too much talent to let go to waste so trying everything, including a sports psychologist, is worth it."
Reese confirmed that the Giants have taken Feagles' advice to heart, even as they have contemplated whether they need to get a more experienced punter and yet still utilize Dodge's leg strength on kickoffs.
"As great as [Feagles] was in his career, even he struggled early on in Arizona and he got some help [from a sports psychologist]," said Reese. "We really like Matt's talent but you know how it is kicking in that stadium with that crowd reacting [with boos] when he struggled with some things. And, he actually got a couple of good kicks off late in the game."
Feagles honored Reese's request to work with Dodge through training camp and preseason. The tutoring was expected to continue but when Feagles attended the regular-season opener against the Carolina Panthers, he admittedly had an emotional meltdown of sorts.
"I went to that first game -- I had a sideline pass but I decided to sit in the stands with my season tickets -- and when they were having pregame ceremonies and they had that fly-over right before kick-off, I just lost it [emotionally]," said Feagles. "It hit me like a ton of bricks and I called Jerry Reese and told him I couldn't do this [tutoring Dodge] anymore, at least not at this time. I just didn't feel I could be around it that much as I go through this transition of retirement."
Actually, Feagles did attend Sunday night's game against the Bears. As Dodge struggled in the first half, fans sitting around him started pleading with him to come back.
"I wore a sweatshirt with a hood but [fans] still knew it was me and they started yelling at me to come back, so I joked with them to start putting some cash in the hood of my sweatshirt and maybe I'd think about it," joked Feagles.
Realistically, there is little or no hope for Feagles to give it another kick.
"People ask me that all the time but I'll leave it to John Carney to carry the banner for the old kickers now that he's back [with the Saints]," said Feagles. "As much as I love football, as much as I'd love to do it, my knee is so shot I can't handle it. I mean, some days I wake up and it feels great and then two days later it feels like there's a knife sticking in my knee."
Feagles also cited his back as among his health problems when he conducted an April 30 news conference, less than a week after the Giants chose Dodge (East Carolina) with a seventh-round pick in the 2010 draft. Feagles played 22 seasons with 352 consecutive starts and earned a reputation as one of the NFL's most skilled punters, especially on directional kicking inside the opponents' 20 yard-line.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin has described Feagles as one of the players and individuals he has admired during his coaching career.
In turn, Feagles said criticism of Coughlin after a 1-2 start before Sunday's win over the Bears was "ridiculous" and referred to the words he expressed at his retirement news conference when he spoke of the Giants coach.
"I admire the way that he coaches on Sunday and more importantly the kind of person that he is," said Feagles. "Tom has always been there for me. He has been such an incredible role model and a huge presence in my life for the past six years, little things that he has said -- we have a great relationship. I have always been able to walk into Tom's office and talk to him about anything -- football, family, whatever it is."
Feagles said Coughlin's coaching and character are traits that Dodge, and "all the players" can take advantage of.
Chris Mortensen is a senior NFL analyst for ESPN.
Former Giants punter Jeff Feagles says that struggling Matt Dodge could use a sports psychologist.