|Punter Chris Hanson has a goal: to play as long as he can. (Jim Davis/Globe Staff)|
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - The New York Giants' Jeff Feagles started his NFL career with the Patriots in 1988 and punted in the league for 20 years before advancing to the Super Bowl. Patriots punter Chris Hanson had been with the team fewer than five months before making it to the Super Bowl.
Hanson fast-tracked to the championship game, but his goal is not longer punts - he wants to equal Feagles's longevity.
"He's done it the right way," said Hanson, who was called upon to punt only 44 times (Feagles had 71). "He has been consistent and this league is all about consistency. He works hard. I hope I can play as long as he has. He is a great punter and great person.
"All of us have the goal to play as long as we can. You have to have fun doing it and he clearly is enjoying it."
Hanson's career has included stops at six NFL teams and one in Europe (Barcelona) since 1999, though he kicked for only Green Bay and Jacksonville before joining the Patriots the week before the start of this season. Hanson's nomadic résumé resembles Feagles's early professional years, among the major differences a bizarre incident in which Hanson cut his left foot with an ax in the Jacksonville locker room in 2003.
Jack Del Rio, the Jacksonville coach, placed an ax and a tree stump in the locker room as part of a motivational exercise, one which was sabotaged as Hanson injured himself seriously enough to miss the final 11 games of the season. Hanson, who refused comment on the incident during an interview yesterday, returned to full strength in '04 and remained a Jaguar until briefly joining the New Orleans Saints as a free agent.
Hanson became the second former Marshall University player to join the Patriots in the offseason, though his arrival was much less heralded than that of receiver Randy Moss.
"For him to come up here and do as well as he has has been fun to watch," Hanson said of Moss.
Two other former Marshall players are on Super Bowl rosters, running back Ahmad Bradshaw (Giants) and receiver Troy Brown (Patriots). They are all far removed from the plane crash involving the Marshall team in the 1950s, but a recent film brought the story to life and was especially poignant for Hanson.
"We all know the history, we all know what happened," Hanson said. "It was a tragedy and the movie is a testament to Marshall."
Hanson was watching as the Giants' kicking game self destructed, then recovered to produce the deciding field goal in a 23-20 overtime win over Green Bay in the NFC Championship game. Lawrence Tynes missed twice, Feagles struggling with a high snap on one attempt, before converting.
"It's all about reacting," Hanson said. "Life is about reacting to situations, being mentally prepared. You have to be mentally prepared for everything."
But the Patriot kickers are also proactive. Asked about the tribulations of the Giants' kicking game, Hanson noted that he and Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski try to simulate such situations.
"We try to prepare for any possibility," said Hanson, who holds for Gostkowski's field goal attempts. "We have a bad snap drill where we throw the ball high. But we're not worried about it. Every time you kick a field goal it could mean the game. Every punt is a money punt, you only get one chance. And you want to give the team the best possible chance to win the game."
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.