Jeff Feagles had the trust of Lawrence Tynes four years ago. Should this season boil down to a game-winning field goal attempt once again, Steve Weatherford wants his kicker to have that same confidence in him.
Weatherford, splitting time as the holder and punter, and Tynes began their working relationship this season with a fairly accurate picture of one another. They knew each other coming in, but with a full season of having each other's careers in their hands, that trust has come along.
"I think over the course of the season, when somebody is with you every day, you kind of get to where you trust him a little bit more," Weatherford said. "For me, being his holder is very important to me because I'm responsible for his career. So if I don't do a good job, he's not going to do a good job…I want to him to do a good job because if he does a good job, we win. So it all kind of has a trickle-down effect, but I think it's just a trust issue. I think the longer I'm here with him, the more he'll see that it's important to me to be good for him."
The image of Tynes hitting the overtime field goal that sent the Giants to the Super Bowl XLII will forever be ingrained in the minds of the Big Blue faithful. Right there with him in the trenches was Feagles holding the ball, just the way Tynes prefers and the way Weatherford has been tweaking all season to accommodate.
"He's been terrific for me," Tynes said. "I think just the work that he puts in with holding and staying on task with how I like the ball held and working at it, he's been great."
While kickers and punters will always share a common bond, Tynes and Weatherford are composed differently. Tynes is more reserved while the Metallica-listening, workout fiend known as Weatherford is more hyperactive.
"I'm a nut if you haven't noticed," Weatherford said. "I'm high energy. When I hit a good punt, I'm out there fist pumping. And Lawrence will hit a 60-yarder and jog off the field. We're different guys for sure. I think I have a little bit different makeup than him."
Where they meet each other, though, is in their methodical, routine-driven approach to the work week. Whether it's preseason or playoffs, it remains the same.
Conference championships included.
"I think as you get to be an older player, you learn to – good or bad – throw away those kicks," Tynes said. "You've just got to move on…We advanced and we're one step away from the Super Bowl, but nothing has changed in terms of our preparation and how we practice this week. We're still doing the same things we did in Week 10."
Meanwhile, aside from his duties as a holder, Weatherford has one of the best special teams in the league to prepare for in a game that Tom Coughlin said can come down to field position.
Wide receiver and return specialist Ted Ginn, Jr. ranked third in the NFL with a 12.3-yard punt return average. In a low-scoring game early on, Weatherford punted just twice in their Nov. 13 meeting.
One was downed and the other kicked out of bounds, handcuffing the 49ers with no chance at a punt return.
Weatherford, who played against Ginn at Illinois, will stick to the same formula.
"He never really snapped a big one off on me, but he was good, fast," Weatherford said of his two years facing the former Buckeye in college. "I think he's improved his game a lot as far as making himself a little more valuable to the team with his wide receiving and everything, but he's just as scary now as he was when I was 20. I wish he would just retire already and let me relax."