Steve Weatherford wasn't thinking about a long-term commitment when he signed with the Giants last July 30.
"The way that my career had gone to that point was one year at a time," Weatherford said. "And really, in my mind, it was one day at a time because I've been in situations where you have one bad game and your life gets turned upside down, you get traded, fired, waived."
He won't have to worry about that now. Weatherford, 29, today signed a multi-year contract and barring an unforeseen circumstance, should be the Giants punter for many years. But affixing his signature to the pact will not change his attitude.
"I still don't want to feel like I have security, because I don't think it's good to get comfortable in my business," Weatherford said. "Or at least for me, I don't want to feel uncomfortable, but I never want to get complacent. Because when you get complacent, then bad things happen. I want to continue to work hard like I always have and I want to continue to get better, but for me from a commitment standpoint, I think the Giants have given me the commitment that I'm looking for. And I know that this is going to be my home for a long time, so that feels good. But I'm still going to strive to get better."
Two weeks ago, the Giants designated Weatherford as their franchise player. The move gave both sides time to work out a long-term contract. Weatherford, who has previously played for New Orleans, Kansas City, Jacksonville and the Jets, finally believes he's found a professional home he can settle into.
"From playing on so many different teams in six years, to finally have a home, the fact that I have a home with the best franchise that I've played with up until this point, it feels good. And I feel like (general manager) Jerry Reese, (assistant general manager) Kevin Abrams, (head coach) Tom Coughlin, I think they're all just as excited as I am to be here. So that's a great feeling. It's a great feeling to be appreciated, and obviously coming off the best season statistically of my career, winning a world championship, it's been an unbelievable ride for me. So I just feel so blessed right now."
Weatherford, who is entering his seventh NFL season, was outstanding in his first year with the Giants.
He was 14th in the NFL with a 45.7-yard gross average and 13th with a 39.2-yard net average on 82 punts. The 45.7-yard gross average was the second-highest single-season average in Giants history, surpassed only by Don Chandler's 46.6-yard average in 1969 (minimum 35 punts). Weatherford dropped 25 punts inside the 20-yard line, including five in a victory at New England on Nov. 6.
Weatherford was even better during the Giants' four-game postseason run that included a victory over New England in Super Bowl XLVI. He punted 12 times in the Giants' NFC Championship Game triumph in San Francisco, tying David Lee of the Baltimore Colts (in a 1977 AFC Divisional Playoff) for the second-highest total in NFL postseason history. The record of 14 was set by Jets punter – and former Giant – Dave Jennings in a 1986 divisional playoff game. All three games went into overtime. The former Giants postseason record was 11 punts by Brad Maynard against the Ravens in Super Bowl XXXV.
Weatherford's 557 punting yards vs. the 49ers easily outdistances the former postseason record of 422, set by Maynard in the Super Bowl 11 years ago.
Weatherford set a Super Bowl record with three punts downed inside the 20-yard line.
"For me, there's been several times where I've been on teams that have won games where I might have had a good game, but I had three punts and I didn't feel like any of those punts were really momentum swings," Weatherford said. "So there could be games where I could play well and I don't really feel like I changed the game. Obviously, when you punt 12 times and I was able to punt well that game especially considering the (wet and windy) conditions, it was amazing because I've been in a championship game. That was my fourth trip. So for me to get past that game and really have a big contribution in winning it was very special to me. That's a game I will never forget. I say I'll never forget, but the only reason I really remember it is from watching the highlights because I was so excited, I almost blacked out. I don't remember a lot of the game."
That includes Lawrence Tynes' game-winning 31-yard field goal in overtime. In addition to his punting duties, Weatherford excelled as Tynes' holder. On the kick that sent the Giants to the Super Bowl, Weatherford had to redirect an off-center snap and secure a slippery ball in pressurized conditions. That the replay was shown numerous times in the day that followed benefitted Weatherford, who barely recalled one of the season's big plays.
"I promise you I don't remember any of that," Weatherford said. "I remember that it wasn't perfect, but I don't remember the small details of it like I do other stuff. I was just so excited because I knew that if I got the ball down, I knew that Lawrence Tynes was so good, and in my opinion, he's one of the most clutch kickers of all time. If I got it down, I knew he was going to make it because he's that type of guy. He's just a pressure guy. When I saw the ball go through the uprights, it was pure jubilation. I don't know if anybody else noticed how excited I was."
Actually, about 55 million people noticed. And the six weeks since the Giants won the Super Bowl have been among the best of Weatherford's life.
"It's been unbelievable," he said. "This is a dream come true. To go from 7-7 to making the playoffs to winning all those playoff games and actually feeling like that I had a big part in it, and then to get to the Super Bowl and to execute the way we executed, and for me specifically to feel like I really had a big part in winning the Super Bowl, it was amazing. It was an amazing trip. And then even going further past that to being honored with the franchise tag – obviously punters don't receive anything like that usually – so that was very flattering. But I knew that the Giants as an organization did that just to give themselves more time to be able to figure out how to keep me here for five years. I was joking with those guys up there that I appreciate the financial commitment that they've made to me, but I would have played for free, man. I had so much fun."
Now he's working to be even better in 2012. Weatherford took just two weeks off before he resumed his rigorous running and lifting regimen. Last Wednesday, he punted for the first time since the Super Bowl.
"Last year was the first year that I really felt that I could kind of place the ball wherever I wanted to. Obviously, there are going to be some times where you're not going to hit the ball perfect, but last year was the first year that I really felt that I had a lot of control. And the other years, I was a pro punter so obviously I'm one of the best in the world, but I just didn't have the confidence directionally or the confidence I had this last year.
"I think I'm going to be able to build off last year just from a comfort standpoint. Every head coach and every special teams coach wants something different. Obviously, having Jeff (Feagles) here for so long and him being so effective – he's the best that ever played, in my opinion – but especially that he was able to control field position with directional punting. That is something that I've always really thought was amazing. So I watched tons and tons of film with him knowing I wanted to be like that. I wanted that skill. I admired it. I'm not nearly as good at directional punting as Jeff was, but I'm going to work really hard this offseason and try to improve on what I was able to do last year."