Jay Feely turned 38 one week ago, the age when most players are long into NFL retirement. And even though there are two others pushing for his spot as the Cardinals’ kicker, the 14-year veteran has no plans to spend the winter in Arizona as a vacationing snowbird.
“I still feel like I’m one of the best kickers in the NFL, and I’ve felt that way over the last five years,” said Feely, who has hit 128-of-151 field goals (84.8 percent) in that span. “I feel like over the last five years I’ve kicked better than I ever have in my whole career. Until nobody wants me, and until I’m not one of the best guys and don’t perform, that’s when I’ll be done. But I still think I’ve got a lot left in me.”
The Cardinals signed Danny Hrapmann in January and undrafted rookie Chandler Catanzaro earlier this month to compete with Feely.
Hrapmann, who went to training camp with the Steelers the past two years, has a strong leg despite his 5-foot-
“One word people have always used is there is a lot of ‘pop’ to my leg,” Hrapmann said. “I’m a small guy, which is kind of fun for me, because they look at me like, ‘He can’t kick.’”
Hrapmann connected on 53-of-72 field goals (73.6 percent) at Southern Mississippi from 2009 through 2011 and was 6-of-6 in the 2012 preseason with the Steelers. He didn’t kick off from the 35-yard-line in college because he played before the rule change, but would figure to be an asset in that department for the Cardinals.
“I wouldn’t say (it’s) easy, but I expect that out of myself,” Hrapmann said. “I feel like I should (get it to) the very back or out (of the end zone). That’s kind of where I’m holding myself, where the standard is. That’s a big plus if you can do that as a kicker.”
Catanzaro hit 67-of-82 field goals (81.7 percent) in his four seasons at Clemson, including just one miss in 14 tries as a senior in 2013. He’s jelled quickly with long snapper
He didn’t do many kickoffs in college because punter Bradley Pinion held those duties, but is intent on showing he can do so in the NFL.
“After the Orange Bowl was over that’s something I really emphasized, getting the consistency in the kickoffs,” Catanzaro said. “That’s something I’ve definitely got to prove here. I feel like I’ve done a good job so far and I’ll just continue to try to hit my best ball.”
Last offseason was trying for Feely. A stress fracture on the inside of his right foot limited his preparation for the 2013 season. Instead of the usual regimen of running up hills, sprinting and practicing kicks to fine-tune his leg, he mostly had to sit around and wait for the injury to get better.
“I couldn’t kick, really, the whole offseason until training camp,” Feely said. “I was a little behind. I knew I was going to be, but I had to let it heal. With the trainers we had talked about what the best strategy was, and it was not kick, let it heal. So the first couple weeks I knew I was going to be a little rusty and be behind.”
He missed one field goal in each of the first two preseason games, and the Cardinals were also looking for more consistent deep kickoffs. The team briefly brought in Dan Carpenter as competition, but that only lasted one game as Feely won the job, and he hit 22-of-24 field goals to begin the season.
Near the end, though, the accuracy dropped off, as four of his final 12 attempts went wide. While the injury was in the rearview mirror, Feely believed the effects lingered.
“I felt like the last three, four weeks my leg was tired,” Feely said. “It didn’t hold up the way it normally would, and that was directly related to the inability to train the way I wanted to.”
Feely was set to become an unrestricted free agent in March but re-signed with the Cardinals on a one-year deal. Now healthy, he said he’s “well ahead of where I was last year, and I feel good about it.”
The kickers spend a lot of time together, and Hrapmann and Catanzaro praised Feely for making them feel welcome. Feely took Hrapmann golfing last week and gives pointers when he can.
“I’m not going to be a jerk to guys just because we’re competing against each other,” Feely said.
While there can be wrinkles, the kicking competition seems like one of the more cut and dried positions to assess. The coaches can track the accuracy on field goals and chart the kickoff distances. Even though the three players are jostling with each other for the same spot, ultimately, their performances are very individualized.
“Whoever is best, that’s who is going to win the job,” Feely said. “I can’t worry about what they’re doing or how they’re kicking. I just have to focus on myself and try to be the best I can be to help this team any way that I can.”