It's Feagles' record now

Punting is what Jeff Feagles does and he's not about to apologize for it in the midst of his 18th season. So when he heard Vikings defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell react cynically to his being on the verge of breaking defensive end Jim Marshall's NFL record for consecutive games – a milestone Feagles reached Sunday at Seattle by appearing in his 283rd straight – Feagles just shrugged his shoulders.

"He didn't complain when I was playing for him [in Arizona]," Feagles said.

Speaking to the media in Minnesota a few weeks ago, Cottrell stuck up for Marshall's right to maintain the record in a way that didn't surprise Feagles.

"Man, a punter?" Cottrell said. "That needs an asterisk. And next to that asterisk, it should say, 'Jim Marshall, defensive end, holds the real record.' "Jeff Feagles is a great punter. But God only made one Jim Marshall.'"

Feagles, the most prolific punter in NFL history, really couldn't argue the point.

"What he did was remarkable, especially at his position," Feagles said. "Do I consider my record equal to his? Yes and no. I play in only four or five plays a game, usually. Jim Marshall probably played at least 40 snaps. For that reason I'd say you could look at his record a little more than mine since he was an everyday player in the trenches where his chance for injury was more than mine. But again, I've done all I've been asked to do."

Feagles' string dates to 1988 when the Patriots signed him as a rookie free agent from the University of Miami. He played two seasons with New England, four years with the Eagles, four with the Cardinals, five with the Seahawks and is now in his third season with the Giants.

"It's a long time and there's always nagging injuries, hits that can put you on injured reserve," Feagles said. "I've just been very fortunate to stay away from them to enable me to play all these years. All I've done is try to do my best on every Saturday, Sunday or Monday. I may be a punter, but I still line up every week and that's all they can ask of me or I of myself. As long as my family cares [about the record] that's all that matters to me."

In the season opener against the Cardinals, Feagles broke Sean Landeta's record for most punts and he recently became the only punter in league history with over 1,400 attempts.

He has also spent time as a holder, a job he's held since joining the Giants. But in all his time he's suffered only two injuries that even briefly threatened his streak.

"I broke my arm making a tackle against Pittsburgh in 2002," Feagles said. "It didn't affect me holding or dropping the football. Then last year, I got hit pretty hard by [Eagles linebacker] Jeremiah Trotter on a cheap shot, 20 yards away from the play. I got a concussion and was hurting on Wednesday and Thursday, but it was OK by the next game. Other than that hamstrings, backs, nagging things like that."

Marshall, 67, began his career with the Browns in 1961 and played the next 19 seasons with the Vikings. He played nearly every defensive down of his 282 games despite separated shoulders, sprained knees and ankles and other bumps and bruises.

"I loved the game," Marshall said. "I loved to play. It was a real passion for me that I needed to be out there. I never felt there was a time that I needed to miss a game for any reason."

Marshall's dedication knew no limits. He also was hospitalized because of pneumonia twice leading up to game day. He played his final game on Dec. 16, 1979.

"There were a couple times I was in the hospital and I got out to play and fulfill my obligation and then went right back into the hospital," Marshall said. "People counted on me to do my job.

"One time I had acute asthmatic bronchitis and I was in an oxygen tent for a week. I spent a week in that tent, but got out to play a game. Once the game was over I got right back to the hospital and back into the oxygen tent. I played the entire game."

Marshall said recently he wished Brett Favre (218 straight games) could be the one to break his record, but did not seem upset a punter likely would.

"Hey, records are meant to be broken, and I'll congratulate [Feagles] when he does it," Marshall said. "To be honest, I hadn't even thought about it until someone mentioned to me at the Vikings-Packers game a few weeks ago that someone was getting close.

"I think it's great that he's accomplished this, and I wish him well. He showed up every day for work like I did and that's all that anyone can ask of you. I would love to tell him that I really respect his ability to hang in there that long. That's a long time. There's a lot of pride in this. I respect him for what he's done. I'll tell him to hang onto it for as long as he can. I had it for 26 years."

Now that Feagles has moved safely to the record, another line item will be added to a résumé that would seem to suit the Hall of Fame. There are no punters currently enshrined, although it seems former Raiders star Ray Guy will someday break down that barrier.

"Until they get the first punter in there, I don't know how it will go," Feagles said. "It's a part of football and every position should be represented. Maybe it will. The consecutive game streak shows my longevity, the way I prepared for games. It would show how consistent and successful I was, to play at a high level at every game and have someone come in every training camp to unseat me. How fortunate have I been?"

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