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Weatherford training with John Carney


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Jets punter Steve Weatherford trains with John Carney at California kicking camp

Updated: Wednesday, May 04, 2011, 9:36 PM

By Jenny Vrentas/The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger

CARLSBAD, Calif. — The office this morning is a quiet soccer field high above the Pacific Ocean, where the weather is sunny with no wind — perfect for kickers.

A little after 9:30, John Carney and Steve Weatherford arrive with the bags of footballs they have made a living off booting with all their might.

Carney, the 22-year veteran kicker whose career includes one season with the Giants, is the guru. Weatherford, the Jets punter for the past two seasons, is one of his pupils. Carney will try 40 field goals, Weatherford will punt the ball 50 times — and then they will head to Carney’s Encinitas, Calif., home to lift weights for two hours.

“I don’t know what the future holds,” said Weatherford, a free agent, “but at the same time, I’m making big strides for next season.”

The turnout today was just the pair of close friends, but on any given idyllic Southern California day, Carney’s group may feature a who’s who of the league’s specialists working on their persnickety crafts.

Weatherford has spent his offseasons with Carney since his rookie season in 2006, when they were both part of a Saints team that invigorated the Katrina-struck city of New Orleans with a run to the NFC Championship Game.

This offseason, he brought Jets kicker Nick Folk and Folk’s younger brother Erik, the kicker at the University of Washington. Nick Novak, signed by the Jets in February to compete with Folk, came out, and so did gunner Marquice Cole.

And from around the league: San Diego kicker Nate Kaeding, Dallas punter Mat McBriar, Green Bay punter Tim Masthay, among others.

They have found fields at San Diego State University, the University of San Diego and neighborhood parks. Carney, 47, has through the years collected enough exercise equipment to make his garage a first-class gym — complete with what he considers the requisite photograph of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“He does a lot for specialists all over,” Folk said by phone today. “It’s great to work out at team facilities, but when you get 80-plus players in there, you can’t personalize to each position. Not only kicking-wise, but workout-wise, it’s beneficial to be down there.”

Kickers work out slightly differently than other players, focusing more on the hips and the leg muscles that control kicks.

Carney also brings together a summit of specialists who can share techniques. Weatherford said he learned the Aussie end-over-end technique from Dallas’ Mat McBriar during a previous offseason, which helped him drop 42 punts inside the 20-yard line this year.

Of course, with players locked out since early March, player-run workouts are the only option. Weatherford wanted to include Folk in the Carney circle — even though Weatherford does not anticipate being on the Jets next year, since he was not extended a restricted free agent tender by the Jets.

Folk, a fifth-year player, received a sixth-round tender in the event he is a restricted free agent, and is said it’s good to know the Jets want him around. He plans to rejoin Weatherford and Carney after a brief vacation, as the league’s players wait for some resolution to the labor impasse.

“I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel with the lockout,” Weatherford said, “but I’ll be prepared for anything.”

For more Jets coverage, follow Jenny Vrentas on Twitter at twitter.com/Jennyvrentas

Jenny Vrentas: jvrentas@starledger.com

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