Giants scrambling to replace kicker

Updated: October 6, 2003, 7:42 PM ET
Associated Press

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."

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press