<
>

Giants scrambling to replace kicker

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants place-kicker Matt
Bryant probably will be sidelined three to four weeks with a pulled
right hamstring, coach Jim Fassel said Monday.

The Giants plan on having four or five place-kickers work out at
Giants Stadium on Tuesday.

New York (2-2) will play at New England (3-2) on Sunday.

Bryant was hurt on the final play of the first half Sunday,
kicking a 43-yard field goal in the Giants' 23-10 loss to the Miami
Dolphins.

Punter Jeff Feagles handled all the kicking chores in the second
half, missing a game-tying 29-yard field-goal attempt in the third
quarter.

Bryant was scheduled to have an MRI Monday afternoon.

Trainers were encouraged Monday because the pull seemed to be
located near his knee instead of higher in his thigh.

"We'll have a better idea after the MRI," Bryant said.

Brett Conway, Neil Rackers, Jose Cortez and Hayden Epstein are
among the place-kickers looking for a job.

Fassel said he doesn't plan on placing Bryant on injured
reserve, which would mean he would have to cut a player to make
room for a new kicker.

Feagles won't get a second try after missing the first attempt
of his 16-year NFL career.

"Needless to say, my field-goal kicking days are over,"
Feagles said Monday.

Fassel could only shake his head at the Giants' latest special
teams problem. He signed long snapper Ryan Kuehl and place-kicker
Mike Hollis in the offseason and lost both to season-ending
injuries in the preseason.

"It is just amazing to me," said Fassel, who saw the Giants
lose in the playoffs last year because they had two bad snaps on
field-goal attempts. "I mean, you guys have asked me about it: Is
there a cloud over our heads along the way?"

Fassel is also concerned by the Giants' net differential in turnovers
this season.

New York is minus three, having given the ball away three more
times than it has taken it away.

"You cannot win in this league without it," Fassel said of the
need for a good turnover ratio.

A somewhat surprising area of concern for special teams is punt returns.

Signing Brian Mitchell in the offseason hasn't helped the Giants
on punt returns.

Mitchell is averaging 8.3 yards per return. The Giants are
ranked 30th in the league with a 6.3-yard average.

While not happy with the return unit, Fassel said there is an
excuse.

"We have been in three games, two for sure, where the punts are
very erratic and very short and there is not a lot of chance for
return," said Fassel, who said Mitchell has been unable to handle
some punts because they have been so bad.

Mitchell is doing better on kickoff, averaging 21.7 yards.

Two of his returns against Miami on Sunday were stopped by the
Dolphins' last line of defense.

"That's not really bad," Fassel said. "What I'd like to be
able to see is -- take it to the distance. Let's get it past the
safeties and let's go."