Seattle flight will prove test for ailing Giants punter Steve Weatherford's aching back, ankle



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EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — The long flight to Seattle will test New York Giants punter Steve Weatherford's ailing back and left ankle.

He's had two days of limited practice because of a disk injury, which has turned his usual high, floating kicks into line drives.

"After I kicked today, I felt good," Weatherford said Friday. "If it feels (Sunday) like it feels today, we'll be in good shape. I hadn't been able to kick much this week."

He'll need to get through a 6½-hour flight to Seattle before a final determination on his playing status. He was listed as questionable after Friday's practice, and it's possible another punter could be signed against Weatherford's potential absence.

The Giants had punters Brian Moorman, Zoltan Mesko, Kasey Redfern and Chris Boswell in for tryouts Sept. 12, and all remain available.

Weatherford's back troubles are a byproduct of the sprained left ankle he's played on since the opener in Detroit. He'll need to keep it loose during the long flight.

"Just get up and make sure it doesn't get stiff," he said. "Drink plenty of water. I'm optimistic that I'll feel good. For me, it's been weird because it's been 10 years, and I've never been injured before."

The Giants (3-5) face a Seahawks team (5-3) that features punt returner in Doug Baldwin, whose 38-yard, fourth-quarter return against the Raiders set up Steven Hauschka's 40-yard field goal that stretched a 10-point lead in an eventual 30-24 victory.

Though Weatherford has played through his injuries, he hasn't looked like the punter who last year put up 4,271 yards on 91 punts, marking the fifth-highest yardage total in franchise history.

His net average of 38.5 is actually better than the 38.1 of last season. The difference is he's having trouble getting the important hang time that keeps returners like Baldwin in their territory.

"It's just exploding up through the ball that's the problem," Weatherford said. "Where I'm at right now, physically I feel strong, but when I go to plant and spring up through the ball, the combination of a little bit of the ankle and then the back comes in.

"It affects everything. Everything you do, it's going to kind of bother you."

If the Giants don't sign a punter, they'll have another option. Placekicker Josh Brown has practiced several short punts during the week. Although he hasn't punted in a game since he forced the Rams to fair catch in their win over his Seahawks in 2004, he said he'd get the Giants through a game.

"I've been in that position before and I've been able to get the job done," Brown said. "If it comes to that, I can do it. Is it the best alternative? Probably not."

NOTES: CB Zack Bowman says "a little stomach bug" attributed his absence from Thursday's practice and overnight stay in the hospital with abdominal pains. He was listed as questionable to replace injured cornerback Prince Amukamara in the battered secondary. .RB Rashad Jennings (knee) was listed as doubtful after limited practice Friday. DT Cullen Jenkins (calf) and DE Mathias Kilauea (knee) also took limited reps and were listed as questionable.WR Preston Parker (ankle), G Weston Richburg (ankle), and CB Dominique Rodgers Cromartie (back/hamstring) all returned to full practice after taking limited reps Thursday and are probable. G Adam Snyder returned to practice and is probable.Giants practiced with crowd noise cranked to its highest level to simulate the perennial din at CenturyLink Field.

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