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</font><font size="4"><font size="6"><font size="4"><font color="#FF0000"><u><font size="6">NFC EAST DIVISION CHAMPIONS
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</font></u></font><font size="4"><u>NEWARK STAR LEDGER</u></font>
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GIANTS' TOM COUGHLIN USED KURT WARNER'S ADVICE TO HELP CONNECT WITH PLAYERS, BECOME A CHAMPION (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/02/giants_tom_coughlin_used_kurt.html)

"In 2004, when his players revolted during his first season with the Giants (http://www.nj.com/giants/), coach Tom Coughlin had only one
real friend in the locker room — veteran quarterback Kurt Warner, a former
superstar who paused in New Jersey before starting the second chapter of a
storied career.

Several times a week, unbeknownst to his teammates, Warner would sneak into
Coughlin’s office to hang out with the man most Giants believed was too rigid,
too angry and too hell-bent on making football miserable for them with childish
rules and ridiculous fines.</p>

Warner — risking being labeled a locker room mole, or worse — would talk to
Coughlin, sometimes about football, but often not. In those off hours, when
other players had gone home, Warner sat on the coach’s couch and watched the
most despised man in East Rutherford dote on his wife and grown children, and
melt whenever his grandkids visited.</p>

In those secret moments, Warner recalled this past week, “I saw a great man,
a great coach, but I also saw a man who, for some reason, didn’t know how to
combine those parts of his personality when it came to football. He could
connect with his family on such an intimate level, but had no idea how to
connect with his players. He was struggling badly. </p>

“Tom was searching for the right way to lead without compromising his
principles. I wanted to help. I thought I could help. I tried to help.”</p>

Today, as the Giants meet the Patriots in Super Bowl XVLI, Coughlin is on the
verge of football immortality — winning a second Super Bowl would make him a
no-doubt Hall of Famer. With a locker room filled with players who now speak
openly about the positive impact he has had on their lives, it has been a
remarkable journey. The Warner letter was one of the first steps.</p>

Warner spent that one season with the Giants, a former Most Valuable Player
rented for one year to buy time for first-round draft pick Eli Manning, the
future of the franchise. Manning claimed his inheritance midway through the 2004
season, and when the season ended, Warner was off to find his next team.</p>


But before Warner left, Coughlin asked him for a favor: “Go home and make a
list of all the things you think I need to do better as a coach,” Warner
recalled Coughlin saying, “and don’t hold back.”</p>

Warner did as he was asked, scribbling “page after page after page,” he said.
“There were times when I was worried that I would hurt his feelings or damage
our friendship,” Warner said. “But deep down I knew he’d never hold it against
me as long as I did it with his best interests at heart.”
</p>On Friday, Coughlin acknowledged he had reached out to Warner for help.

“I have such great respect for Kurt because of how he earned everything he
got and because of the professionalism he showed as we transitioned to Eli,”
Coughlin said. “I welcomed any thoughts he had on how we might improve.”</p>

Although Warner wouldn’t reveal the specific items, he said most of his
criticisms exhorted Coughlin to “swallow his pride and find a way to connect
with his players — each player, from the biggest star to the guys on the
practice squad.”</p>

On Thursday, when the two ran into each other after the Giants’ media
availability, Warner reminded Coughlin of the list, compiled eight years ago. He
wasn’t sure the coach would remember it. Coughlin’s response shocked him:
“Kurt,” he said, “I still have that list, and I still refer to it.”</p>

Warner smiled when replaying that conversation, touched by the impact the
list had on Coughlin.</p>

“In the list, I told him that rather than just make rules and enforce them,
he had to show the players why a certain rule is important to him,” Warner said.
“Look, if you tell me that I have to be at a meeting five minutes early, Kurt
Warner is going to be there, because that’s the way I was as a player. I did it
for my pride. I didn’t ask any questions.</p>

“But some players aren’t like that. They want to know why. So, Tom had to
tell them why: ‘Because if you come to meetings early, it means you’re fully
committed to this team. It means you want to be better. It means you want to be
great. It means you’re willing to get here early for your teammates.’?”</p>

Warner added: “If he had just told them that from the start, there wouldn’t
have been a problem with 99 percent of the players in that locker room. Some
would have still thought the rules were silly, but they would have said, ‘Okay,
he wants us five minutes early because it’s important to him. No big deal.’?”

Coughlin’s turnaround has been well chronicled, but this is the first public
disclosure of the coach’s first plea to a player for help. In that offseason,
Coughlin’s wife and grown children counseled him to retire and escape the
pettiness. Coughlin, however, decided to stay. He vowed to soften a bit and be
more patient — not an easy task for a coach who had been successful for decades,
doing it his way.</p>

An 11-5 record in 2005 kept the critics at bay, but an 8-8 backslide the
following season had media detractors and unhappy players chirping again, and
Coughlin’s job was in jeopardy. The Giants extended his contract for a year, but
it came with stipulations. Some were obvious: Win now. Some were subtle: Reflect
better on the organization and make peace with players and the media.</p>

Coughlin vowed, but admitted it wouldn’t be easy: “When something isn’t
right, I can’t disguise my demeanor,” he told The Star-Ledger in 2005. “That’s a
fault of mine. I’m upset, and the players know I’m upset, but I don’t want them
to forget the mistake. Kids coming up haven’t had the back of their hands
slapped, but when you do it …”</p>

Judy Coughlin recalled taking her husband by the hand, looking into his eyes
and saying, “Tom, the media doesn’t just dislike you, they hate you. They hate
you. So I’m telling you right now, do something to help yourself.” </p>

He started calling beat reporters by name. He padded answers to their
questions. He vowed to soften a bit and be more patient with players — not an
easy task for a coach who had been successful for decades, doing it his way.
</p>But Coughlin had an inkling of what to do, thanks to Warner’s cheat sheet,
which, Warner said, included the idea of a players committee — a panel of
established players who wouldn’t be afraid to speak up to Coughlin, like Warner

The next season, with locker room leaders like defensive end Michael Strahan
buying into Coughlin’s kinder coaching methods, the Giants shocked the NFL by
beating the undefeated Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.</p>

“When Tom Coughlin got here, I wanted to play for anybody else,” Strahan said
at the time. “And now I don’t want to play for anybody but him.”</p>


Today, four years later, Coughlin has a roster full of ardent disciples in
another championship game. If you believe him, all it took was a little more

“Have I changed?” Coughlin said this past week. “Probably, but it’s important
as part of the process of learning. You learn, develop and change every year.
I’ve become more patient.”
</p>Manning, the quarterback whose legacy is linked to the coach, respects the
fighter in Coughlin, who, amid rumors of imminent firings, twice has led his
team to title games.

“He still is very disciplined,” Manning said. “Everything is still five
minutes early. But he has shown more of his passion for football and the guys
respect that and play hard for him.” </p>

Adds defensive tackle Chris Canty: “Coach has a good feel for our football
team. He has the pulse of our locker room.”</p>

A finger on the pulse? Who would’ve guessed that eight years ago, Warner

“Tom probably would have figured it out by himself,” he said. “If I helped,
I’m glad. He’s a great coach. He just needed to show his players that he cared
about them and that there’s a method to his madness.”</p>

Warner paused and smirked.</p>

“Let me ask you this: Do you think they question him for a second now?”</p>IZENBERG: SUPER BOWL MACTHUP BETWEEN GIANTS AND PATRIOTS IS A GREAT ONE (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/02/izenberg_super_bowl_matchup_be.html)

"All right, pay close attention because you are going to thank me for the advice
that follows here. Try to forget all the breathless refugees from the fashion
runways turned faux “reporters” gushing, “I am actually coming to you from the
Super Bowl!”

Ignore news shows that feature barnyard chickens allegedly picking the Super
Bowl winner. Line your garbage pail with every newspaper page in which the
“stars” pick the Super Bowl winners. And if you are watching on television,
understand that this time the football action is not there so you can get to the
bathroom without interrupting the halftime show.</p>

In short, what we have here at Super XLVI today is something you don’t always
get. What we have — at least on paper — is one hell of a match-up. For example,
how often out in Vegas do you get three points if you bet on the underdog but
then it’s you and not The House that still has to lay 6-5? </p>

The Pats and Giants (http://www.nj.com/giants/): A match that is
the direct residue of the late Pete Rozelle’s determination to find the ultimate
100-yard wall-to-wall parity. Forget the fact that the Patriots sort of backed
in after Baltimore missed a short field-goal that would have tied the game.
That, after all, is football. But eye to eye and belly to belly this is one of
those rare times that the two best teams in all of football have made it to what
is always overbilled as the season’s ultimate game.</p>

So throw the hype in the nearest garbage can and do not recycle. With
football salaries today, everything else surrounding this may be about the money
and glitz — but not for the players.</p>

For them it’s about the rings. Gone are the days when Super Bowl players went
to bed the night before with visions of having to win to make up for the
winners’ share their wives had already spent. They make too much money these
days for that.</p>

And gone are mornings like the day before Super Bowl I in Los Angeles, when I
had breakfast with a Kansas City linebacker named E.J. “The Beast” Holub, whose
palms were sweating because “I can’t believe if we win, I get $15,000.”
</p>This game over the years has morphed into a definitive bookmark by which
players and coaches measure each other and measure themselves.

They know it
is special.</p>

Listen to the way Bill Parcells describes that incredible moment just before
the Giants ran onto the field at the Rose Bowl before Super Bowl XXI in 1987:

“I remember it’s just so different. I can’t tell you what it’s like to run
out of that tunnel. One moment you are standing there and you can see out and
it’s a beautiful sunny day, and it looked like a million people out there
waiting ... waiting for you. </p>

“I remember standing there and looking out at the colors in the sunlight and
then we start to run out and it was ... it was ... it was ... all I can say is
that it was a great thing.” </p>

And most players never get there.</p>

The Patriots and Giants — the former favored to get here even before the
season started, the latter a sinking ship late in the season but a brilliant
football team down the stretch.</p>

Two teams with well-qualified coaches; two clearly credentialed quarterbacks;
two well-stocked groups of receivers; two teams that can and do run the ball;
two sides with good special teams, although the Pats have a slight edge in
return men; two teams with good punting games and one team (the Pats) with a
slightly better kicking game.</p>

And beyond that?
</p>Well, beyond that is the oldest of professional football clichés:

“Offense wins football games but defense wins championships.” </p>

So there you have it. It is the reason I think the Giants will win. When the
other teams have the ball, there is no edge here in coaching. In raw talent I
think the Giants are simply better at playing without the ball than are the

They proved that down the playoff stretch run. And since Eli is the league’s
best fourth-quarter comeback quarterback, the defense can get him where he needs
to be.</p>

Defensive pressure will win this game. George Foreman once told me that
styles make fights. “I could fight Ali 100 times, “ he said, “and Ali would win
100. I could fight Frazier 100 times and I would win 100. But Ali and Frazier
could fight 100 and each one would go life and death. Styles, that’s what it’s
all about.” </p>

It’s that way in football as well. It’s not about records. It’s about
head-to-head styles. </p>

Defense figures to give the Giants the style to win."</p>

JOHN MARA, ROBERT KRAFT MT IN SUPER BOWL AFTER SAVING NFL SEASON (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/02/giants_vs_patriots_john_mara_r.html)</p>

"Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI will end with elation for either the Giants (http://www.nj.com/giants/) or New England Patriots. Months ago,
there was instead frustration and tension in the league, during the drawn-out
labor negotiations.</p>

John Mara recalled one such moment last week, when a disagreement ratcheted
up the discord between the NFL and the players.</p>

“We’re the reasonable ones on this side,” burst out Mike Vrabel, a member of
the players union’s executive committee.</p>

Mara, the Giants owner, looked directly at the retired linebacker.</p>

“What the hell do you think you’re dealing with here?” replied Mara,
referencing a core of owners that included the Patriots’ Robert Kraft. “If you
want to deal with some of the other owners, just give me a list of names.” </p>

With a smile, Mara finished the story last week: “They never came back with
that list.”</p>

Months later, Mara and Kraft’s teams will meet in the Super Bowl on Sunday, a
fitting finish to the season they helped save.</p>

Mara was a constant presence at the negotiating table last spring and summer,
missing sessions only when called to jury duty. </p>

He had an ally in Kraft, who would not have left his dying wife’s bedside had
she not told him to help save America’s game.</p>

These two men were linchpins in bringing the NFL a 300-page collective
bargaining agreement and 10 years of labor peace. While they were firm and
demanding on the points the owners would not yield, what Mara told Vrabel that
day was also true: He and Kraft were voices of reason on the owners’ side,
critical to overcoming the distrust and dissension that threatened the

“Those two individuals deserve a lot of respect and appreciation,” NFL
commissioner Roger Goodell said.

During the 136-day lockout, Mara and Kraft traveled from judge’s chambers in
Minnesota to a covert hotel in a Chicago suburb to a law firm in Manhattan, to
name a few. </p>

Mara had watched <a href="http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/01/dalessandro_giants_john_mara_h.html">his
father, Wellington Mara,</a> navigate labor disputes in another generation and
believed the only way to a deal was to show the other side respect. Kraft, a
shrewd businessman, operated the same way. </p>

He was known to look across the table at a particular player and ask, “What
do you think?” </p>

As the owners and players were summoned to locations so secretive they were
assigned aliases, and broke bread together, they soon grew to understand the
graveness of Myra Kraft’s condition.</p>

Mara recalled Kraft assuring his colleagues that attending the talks was
“therapeutic” for him. But they did not overlook his sacrifice. Often he flew
home after a long day of negotiations, then back early in the morning, simply to
spend a night with his wife.</p>

“It was the only thing I ever left her side for, and when things got a little
cuckoo with the lawyers, I went home,” Kraft said. </p>

“I wasn’t going to waste my time, and I think the players and (union
executive director) DeMaurice Smith understood that. I hope in a small way that
helped us to get resolution.”</p>

<a href="http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/01/patriots_owner_robert_kraft_he.html">Kraft’s
“sweetheart” lost her battle</a> with cancer July 20, after 48 years of
marriage. </p>

Five days later, the sides announced that they had reached a deal.</p>

One of the lasting images of the lockout’s end was Colts center Jeff Saturday
warmly embracing Kraft on the steps of the NFL Players Association’s
headquarters in Washington, D.C. It was a moment “completely from the heart,”
Saturday said. The two later traded notes of appreciation.</p>

Kraft admits he “never thought I would grow to love and respect the guy that
Peyton Manning put his hands on his tush every day.” But he and Mara put aside
football rivalries and pride for the sake of a deal.</p>

“They wanted to come up with creative solutions,” said Saturday, one of the
most-involved players in negotiations. </p>

“Those guys were willing to examine options and different opportunities for
both sides, ownership and players, to get something that was fair. That took a
lot of time and a lot of effort.” </p>

Patriots guard Brian Waters, a member of the union’s executive committee,
said Mara and Kraft were effective because they operated without egos or
chest-pounding or an air of superiority. </p>

Quarterback Tom Brady, a plaintiff on the union’s antitrust lawsuit against
the NFL, said Kraft never uttered the phrase “what’s best for us” — instead, he
talked about a fair deal for both.</p>

The tide began to turn in June, when the negotiating parties were reduced to
five players and five owners. Mara and Kraft were on the short list. In a
rotating list of cities, the group debated during the day, and dined and drank
together at night.</p>

They listened and talked simply “as men” at the dinner table, Saturday
remembers, about how Kraft purchased the Patriots in 1994, the lessons the Mara
family learned through past strikes and postponements, and Myra Kraft’s
conviction that football must be saved for the struggling economy. </p>

“We didn’t discuss business at all,” Mara said. “Once we started doing that,
it took a lot of the animosity and mistrust away.”</p>

Mara and Kraft’s players see similarities in the way they run their teams as
smart businesses with a keen eye for success.</p>

As allies, they found this was their strength: Kraft is still struck by how
close the league came to missing games, but each man knew the other would not
let that happen.</p>

To Mara, Kraft’s balance of personal and professional obligations was
“amazing.” He called Kraft as good a businessman as any owner in the league, and
said the Giants are simply trying to match the Patriots’ level of success. </p>

Kraft, meanwhile, knew Mara would not waver in his family’s legacy of putting
the NFL first through 87 years owning the team.</p>

The players in Mara and Kraft’s own locker rooms were not surprised at their
roles in settling the dispute, after years of doing personal business with

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, a plaintiff on the union’s antitrust lawsuit
against the NFL, said Kraft never uttered the phrase “what’s best for us,” but
only talked about “a fair deal.” </p>

Giants linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka’s praise of Mara was just as high: “He’s
more of a protector of the game than he is of his business assets.” Mara and
Kraft speak proudly of the new CBA, for the extended labor peace it provides as
well as the long-term television deals that came after. They spoke even more
proudly last week of their teams, which will compete for a championship

You could call Sunday night’s game the fruits of their labor. </p>

“It’s pretty cool that we didn’t miss any games, we both worked so hard on
it,” Kraft said, “and now we are playing Sunday.”</p>GIANTS' DEON GRANT AND PATRIOTS' SHAUN ELLIE ARE CLOSE FRIENDS AT A CROSSROADS AGAIN (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/02/new_york_giants_deon_grant_new.html)

Excerpt: "To this day, Shaun Ellis thinks Deon Grant wouldn’t have survived. Not with the
way the windshield and door on the passenger’s side were both smashed in after
Ellis fell asleep at the wheel on the way back to campus in the wee hours of
March 16, 1998.

After Ellis veered off the road, he somehow emerged from the Ford Taurus
lodged between two trees on a mountainside with a broken hip, a busted lip and
glass embedded in his face.</p>

Grant was supposed to be in the car with him. With spring practice
approaching at the University of Tennessee, he had planned to meet Ellis in
South Carolina to make the trek back. But because Grant needed to get back to
Knoxville a day earlier than planned, he caught a ride from someone else. </p>

“He wouldn’t have made it. That’s how close …” Ellis said, his voice trailing
off. “His life could’ve changed.”
Or ended.</p>

Ellis showed Grant the morbid photos of the wreckage, but Grant has a
different take on what would’ve happened. With some company on the ride, he’s
sure Ellis wouldn’t have fallen asleep at the wheel.</p>

“I might’ve been up when that happened and I could’ve been talking to him or
playing music or whatever,” Grant said. </p>

Instead, 12 years after the two left Tennessee together for the 2000 NFL
Draft, in which they were selected 45 picks from each other, they will be on
opposing sidelines today with their first Super Bowl ring on the line. </p>

The two talk often and see each other whenever possible — it was easier when
Grant joined the Giants last season and Ellis was close by as member of the Jets (http://www.nj.com/jets/) — but the past two weeks have been all
business. For Ellis, it’s his first Super Bowl after 11 years with the Jets, the
final two of which ended with losses in the AFC Championship Game. It will be
Grant’s second Super Bowl — he and the Panthers lost to the Patriots in Super
Bowl XXXVIII.</p>

“I figured I’d talk to him once the week is over with,” the 34-year-old Ellis
said. “Right now, my mindset is about going in and winning this game. It’s not
about personal relationships even though me and him are really close so it’s
just one of those things we’ll catch up in the offseason.”</p>


Ellis was a 20-year-old sophomore at the time of the accident and doctors
told him his football career was in jeopardy because they feared vascular
necrosis as a result of decreased blood supply. He faced a long, arduous
recovery if he hoped to step back on the field." Read more... </p>

PATRIOTS' GRONKOWSKI DOING BETTER, COACH SAYS (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/02/patriots_rob_gronkowski_is_doi.html)

Excerpt: "Rob Gronkowski showed no signs of limping today as the New England Patriots
held a pre-Super Bowl outing at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, according to
a pool report.

The Patriots tight end has been recovering from a high ankle sprain he
suffered in the AFC Championship Game. He returned to practice Thursday and said
he is <a href="http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/02/patriots_rob_gronkowski_will_d.html">the
one who'll make the decision</a> whether he'll play Sunday against the Giants (http://www.nj.com/giants/). He was listed as "questionable" on
Friday's injury report.</p>

At the end of today's event, Gronkowski walked briskly from the field and up
the tunnel, heading for the buses outside, according to the pool report.</p>

“I think he’s doing better,” New England coach Bill Belichick said. “I think
he’s doing a little better each day. We’ll just have to see where things (are)
and get through tomorrow.” Read more...</p>GIANTS DON'T LET BROKEN DOWN BUS DISRUPT SATURDAY SCHEDULE (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/02/super_bowl_giants_dont_let_bro.html)

"Tom Coughlin said on Friday of the Giants’ bandwagon, “Five weeks ago, there
wasn’t even a bus, and now there are no seats on anything.”<div class="entry-content">

Well, today’s bus to practice must’ve been carrying too much weight because
it broke down. According to the pool report, compiled by Yahoo’s Jason Cole,
some players arrived at practice 5 minutes late. (Great line by Newsday’s Tom
Rock: “Or as we say, ‘on time.’)</p>

But the jog-through ensued as planned and lasted 48 minutes. Cole reports
running back Ahmad Bradshaw “showed barely a hint of soreness in his foot as he
went through all the scripted situations for the offense.”</p>

Safety Tyler Sash (foot) and defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee/ankle), both
of whom are listed as probable, participated in the jog-through.</p>

“He looked fine, no soreness, nothing you could notice,” Tom Coughlin said of
Bradshaw. “This was all situational stuff, nothing unusual. It was a Saturday
morning jog-thru, all situations.”</p>

Tonight, the Giants’ players and coaches will meet from 7:30 to 9:15. After
that, they’ll be shown a 3- to 4-minute highlight video to, as Coughlin put it,
“get them in the right frame of mind.” After the video, Coughlin will address
the team. Then, per the pool report, they’ll have a “snack.” It’s unlikely the
snack will be similar to the one served by Rex Ryan at Jets camp last
year."</p></div>GIANTS' GM JERRY REESE RECOGNIZES THE FINE LINE IN THE NFL (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/02/giants_jerry_reese_recognizes.html)

"There is a fine line between success and failure in the “what have you done
lately” NFL and Giants general manager Jerry Reese knows it all too well. <div class="entry-content">

This time last year, questions about his football team were abundant and they
continued into training camp and until the Giants turned things around with
their season on the line against the Jets on Christmas Eve. </p>

“It’s kind of funny when you’re 10-6 last year and you don’t qualify for the
tournament and you go 9-7, you win the division, qualify for the tournament,”
Reese said. “That’s the difference between being a smart guy and a not-so-smart
guy. Last year I wasn’t so smart. This year we win 9 games [and] I’m smarter. Go
figure that.”</p>

Now, after constant criticism for making unpopular moves during the
offseason, Reese is back on the media’s and fans’ good side, one win away from
winning his second Super Bowl in five seasons. Just like that he can go from a
failure to one of the most successful general managers in league.</p>

“In 2009, we thought we had a pretty deep team and we ended up 8-8, because
we went out and got some free agents,” Reese said. “That isn’t always the way to
do it. Everybody has different ways of doing things. We had a good nucleus of
guys coming back and we just felt like we needed to make the best football
moves. Obviously, they’re not sexy moves. We signed a guard, we signed a center
and we signed a punter. That’s not really sexy, especially from a fan
perspective. Fans are fans and they like to see big names and see you look like
you’re stacking the deck, but we had good players already and we needed to fill
the holes we thought were there and we tried to do that.”</p></div>THE PATRIOTS MAY HAVE THE ANSWER TO THE GIANTS' PASS RUSH; NO HUDDLE OFFENSE (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/02/giants_will_have_to_defend_a_g.html)

"Over the last five weeks, opponents have unsuccessfully attempted to find a
way to neutralize the rejuvenated Giants pass rush.

They’ve tried to run the ball and complete short and quick passes, among
other strategies -- anything to keep their quarterbacks upright. Tomorrow, the
Patriots may finally have the antidote: an effective no-huddle offense.</p>

This season, New England ran the no-huddle offense more than any other team
in the league and with Tom Brady under center, they were successful. A no-huddle
offense against the Giants can keep them from substituting players in and out on
the defensive line, allowing them to take advantage packages. An obvious case
would be running the no-huddle when the Giants have all four of their defensive
ends on the line, an undersized group in the middle that can theoretically be
exploited against the run. </p>

The Giants have struggled at times against no-huddle offenses, but the
defense has improved dramatically in recent weeks, and the main reason has
simply been communication. And against the Falcons in the Wild Card round of the
playoffs, the Giants held their own when defending Atlanta’s successful
no-huddle offense. </p>

“We were battle-tested as far as the no-huddle offense throughout the
season,” Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell said. “And I think that we
improved as the season went on with our form of communication. During the
season, that was definitely a challenge for us. Right now, I think that’s become
part of who we are and what we do because we’ve faced it so much.”</p>GIANTS' PRACTICE SQUAD MEMBERS ENJOYING SUPER BOWL RIDE, DESPITE NOT BEING ABLE TO PLAY IN BIG GAME (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/02/giants_practice_squad_players.html)

"This has been the week that Andre Brown has dreamed of since he was a kid. He's
been able to stay in the fancy hotel, go out to eat in the fancy restaurants,
sign autographs and sit down for interviews. This is how he thought Super Bowl
week would always play out.

Only there will be no game for him.</p>

"Bittersweet, that's a great way to put it," Brown said. "I would love to
play in the Super Bowl. But I understand my role right now. Every kid's dream
growing up — to play in the Super Bowl, be Super Bowl MVP. Those were my dreams.
I still want to be able to do it. But I'm here and I'm just glad to be

When Super Bowl XLVI kicks off on Sunday evening, Brown will be alongside the
other seven members of the Giants (http://www.nj.com/giants/)'
practice squad. They will have the crisp, white jerseys on — Super Bowl patches
and all — but they will not dress for the game. They will have practiced just as
hard and just as often as the other 53 members of the active roster, but there
will be no payoff of paying in the big game.</p>

It's not the ideal or preferred way to try and win a championship, but for
now, the members of this group are content with it.</p>

"It's the game, it's just how the game is," said DT Dwayne Hendricks, a
Millville native. "There's a lot of people fighting for a very small amount of
spots. You can't get frustrated, you just have to understand that your time will
come if you keep putting the work in. It has to come when you have talent."</p>

Some players are waived and resigned numerous times throughout the season.
Some get the chance to dress for a handful of games. Some spend the entire year
on the practice squad.</p>

"It's an opportunity for those guys to show us, look, 'I'm worthy of being
here, of doing what you ask me to do,'" Giants general manager Jerry Reese said.
"Working on their craft, running cards for the offense. It's an opportunity — a
great opportunity — for them. You get to see them every day, you see their work
ethic, you see them catching balls or blocking. Doing the things that you need
to do to make a football team."</p>

Numerous players on the eight-man unit said that while nothing is technically
different on the field in their preparation, they know this week everyone is
held to a higher standard.</p>

"It's definitely different for us," said former Rutgers (http://www.nj.com/rutgersfootball/) cornerback Brandon Bing.
"It's more responsibility, I'll tell you that. As far as the media and the time
that you have and where you are. The media is everywhere you go — in malls, in
restaurants. You have to carry yourself as a professional."</p>

But this week is not unlike the others during the season. The Giants coaching
staff encourages its practice squad players to eat in the cafeteria with the
rest of the players. To mingle away from the facilities and develop
relationships that aren't limited to position group or locker room positions. On
Wednesday night, Bing went out to eat with Deon Grant, Victor Cruz, Antrel
Rolle. As he said: "I don't think I've been out with practice squad guys."
</p>"We encourage guys not to blend in," Reese said. "If you blend in, you're
going to be gone. You better try to stand out in practice. I don't care if
you're on the practice squad running cards, you better stand out. We don't like
guys that blend in. If I don't notice you or our coaching and personnel staff
don't notice you, I'll ask, 'Coach Coughlin, what about this guy?' And he says,
'I don't even notice him, Jerry.' That's not a good report for me. We like for
guys to stand out, work hard and not blend in."

In addition to trying to prep the regular 53-man roster for Sunday's game,
players are often asked to fulfill different roles during the week. Brown is a
running back, but because of his versatility, he has played the role of Patriots
WR Wes Welker this week. He's also played some safety.</p>

"Hopefully this'll help me for a job next year," he said. "I look at it as
another working day. If I'm running wide receiver routes, it's going to do
nothing but help me. To show that I can do another thing add value."</p>

But with the magnitude of this being the Super Bowl, extra effort in
preparation might go a long way when offseason personnel decisions are made.

"You're supposed to do that every week," said OT Selvish Capers. "Coaches
look at every part of this week."</p>

Even with all of the pressure and distractions that make this week unlike the
others, the eight-man unit is enjoying themselves. They realize the rare
opportunity that they've been given this week. That hundreds of players — on
practice squads and not — don't get an opportunity to go to a Super Bowl.</p>

"It's the biggest game ever," Brown said. "We're still a part of it. We have
to go out there and give them great looks every day. Whatever I can do to help.
That's my mindset. We get rings, too. So I want one too."</p>VICTOR CRUZ STARRED ON COURTS OF PATERSON, N.J. LONG BEFORE CATCHING PASSES FOR GIANTS' SUPER BOWL RUN (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/02/victor_cruz_starred_on_courts.html)

"If you grew up in Paterson or had interest in playing for Paterson Catholic, you
played basketball. That's just the way it was. You would play for Jimmy Salmons'
AAU team, the Playaz. Then you would go on to play for Damon Wright's Cougars
team. Every kid did this. And if you were part of that neatly woven hoops
fabric, you knew players you didn't even play with. That's just the way it

So when Jordan Theodore was in sixth grade, he would always find himself
hanging around the city's courts, waiting for pick-up games on the playgrounds.
He was testing himself for bigger and better things. There was a kid though,
three years older than he was, who was the talk of the courts.</p>

It was Victor Cruz. </p>

Yes, that Victor Cruz.</p>

"Just being around Paterson Catholic, I remember going there and watching the
games and seeing Vic play," Theodore recalled this week. "He was a very talented
basketball player. He could dribble, he could shoot. He had some hops, man. He
could jump. He played defense, too. He was a real team player."</p>

This season, the Paterson-born Cruz has become the talk of the NFL. He has
spear-headed a rejuvenated Giants (http://www.nj.com/giants/)
offense, setting a new mark for single-season receiving yards. His salsa dance
after touchdowns has become such a hot topic that even Madonna mimicked him
during a press conference this week in Indianapolis. But before Cruz became a
superstar on the football field, he was best known for what he could do on the
basketball court.</p>

He grew up and played against many of the state's best college basketball
players, playing shooting guard. In addition to Theodore and Fuquan Edwin at Seton Hall (http://www.nj.com/setonhall/), he calls Rutgers (http://www.nj.com/rutgersbasketball/) point guard Myles Mack
his "little brother."</p>

"Those guys are like my little brothers," Cruz said recently. "Anytime I get
to call them or speak to them. And they call me anytime they have a question or
want to talk or want to play FIFA (Soccer video game). We just kind of hang out
and talk all the time. And it's good for them to have somebody like me, who's
kind of been through the same road and the same obstacles that they may

When Seton Hall beat Connecticut on Jan. 3, Cruz sat courtside at the
Prudential Center to cheer on his close friends. Afterwards, he spent time in
the Pirates' locker room speaking to the rest of the team.
</p>Theodore said a number of his teammates were a little awed that an NFL star
would grace them with his presence during the season, but the senior point guard
said that Cruz was as down-to-Earth as they come.

"He was ahead of me (at Paterson Catholic), so we never played together, but
we would always practice," Theodore said. "But he deserves this. He worked hard
at UMass. Last year, he came on the scene in the preseason game (against the
Jets) and scored three touchdowns in the Giants' win. From there, people would
always say, 'Oh, this guy's a player.'"</p>

Numerous times during this Super Bowl week, Cruz has spoken glowingly about
his former high school. While Paterson Catholic closed its doors in 2010 for
good because of financial problems, Cruz still carried the PC tradition.</p>

"The camaraderie, the people there, the coaching staff, how much of a
family-oriented place it was," Cruz said. "It was like a family. Those guys that
I met in high school, we would talk and spend a lot of time off the field doing
things. We would go to parties, we would just hang out, have sleepovers. It was
just one of those things where it was a second home for me."</p>

Those that played against Cruz on the basketball courts and gyms of Paterson,
say that the happy-go-lucky wide receiver was a better basketball player than
football player.</p>

But even back then, there was no doubting which sport he would pursue.</p>

"Football was always his first love though," Theodore said. "At Paterson
Catholic, we always had guys that played football and basketball for the school.
It was like tradition: If you played football, you played basketball."

GIANTS' ASSISTANT AL HOLCOMB AND HIS FAMILY HAVE SACRIFICED TO CHASE A DREAM (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/02/super_bowl_giants_asssistant_a.html)

"Toni Holcomb was leaning against a short wall on West Maryland Street on Friday,
looking at the huge Super Bowl XLVI decals on the elevated walkways of the
Indiana Convention Center. She was also watching her 9-year-old son Alex,
wearing a Justin Tuck jersey, flip a small Nerf football into the air

About 6 miles away, her husband Al, a defensive assistant coach, was at
practice with the Giants (http://www.nj.com/giants/) in the team’s
final full workout before Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots.</p>

“Wow, I mean, it’s like bringing everything full circle. Everything he’s
worked so hard for,” Toni said, her voice cracking and her eyes beginning to
water behind a pair of black Ray-Bans. “I’m so happy and so proud of him. I get
emotional when I think about it.
“I can’t get the smile off my face.”</p>

There are lots of smiles and tears on the faces of every member of the
Holcomb crew these days. Reaching the pinnacle of Al’s profession only three
seasons into his NFL coaching career can do that to a family.</p>

But this trip is even more rewarding for Al, Toni and Alex because of the
sacrifices they’ve all made.</p>

A tight-knit family, they’ve actually been living apart for much of the past
three years — Toni and Alex in their home near Bethlehem, Pa., Al in Perth Amboy
with his father, Al Sr. — to allow Al to follow his dream. The separation in
residence was due to the family’s buying a house shortly before Al was quickly
hired by the Giants (four days after his interview) in February 2009 to replace
defensive quality control coach Andre Curtis, who followed Steve Spagnuolo to
the St. Louis Rams.</p>

With the rushed timeline, the crash of the housing market, the ever-tenuous
situation coaches face and the inordinate amount of time Al would spend in the
office, the Holcombs decided to see how living apart would work.</p>

They’re still trying it out.
</p>“I feel a sense of guilt because she’s like a single parent,” Al said of his
wife of 19 years. “She does everything she needs to do at home, she takes care
of our son, she does all of that stuff. I’m not there.

“I go home on Fridays in season and then I come back Saturday morning. That
part of it is difficult.”</p>

It’s getting more difficult.</p>

Alex was only 6 when Al, a 41-year-old Queens native, first started with the
Giants. Now, Alex is as outgoing and sharp as a 9-year-old can be, finishing
Toni’s sentences and talking football like a veteran coach.</p>

Alex knows his dad’s schedule now, so when there’s an adjustment, such as the
freak October snow storm preventing Al from getting home, the son is

“He started crying on the phone,” Al recalls. “That was very tough.”</p>

Alex is making sacrifices as well. He used to play sports in the fall but
missed half of the games because he preferred to be with his father. He’d like
to play football but has settled for a role as a pseudo-coach.</p>

Alex drew up a playbook of offensive and defensive plays for last season’s
game against the Eagles. He gave it to Al to bring to work.
“Of course we
lost,” Alex groans.</p>

But he’s a determined young coach-in-waiting, so he continues to trade
pointers with his father over the phone.</p>

“We talked about how to stop ‘Matty Ice,’ ” Alex says of Falcons quarterback
Matt Ryan. “And of course we did.”</p>

This is cute. So how does Alex recommend stopping Ryan?</p>

“Play a lot of Cover-2 on Julio (Jones) and Roddy (White),” he fires

Wait, what?</p>

“Of course we didn’t play that,” he said, “but were still successful.”</p>

Said Toni: “It’s nice to hear him and Al talk football because he’s actually
starting to get it. He’s a chip off the old block.” </p>

Alex should be warned there are long hours for NFL coaches, especially for
the quality control coach. This season, Al received a new title of defensive
assistant and works a bit with the linebackers but still breaks down opponents’
film, draws up game-plan books for the players and runs the scout team. When
there’s no last-second shuffling for the Giants’ defense before a play, Al did
his job well.
</p>With all of that work, he fights to stay awake in meetings and averages about
4 hours of sleep per night, with much of that slumber coming in his office.
He’ll also spend nights in a nearby hotel, though his father’s house provides a
nice reminder of a normal life.

“I just had to get away to clear my head,” he recently told Al Sr., “and see
there’s a real world out there.”</p>

Before the Week 17 game against the Cowboys, the elder Al awoke when he heard
his bedroom door close softly at 1:30 a.m.</p>

“I’m saying, ‘Are you okay? Take care of yourself,’ ” Al Sr. recalled. “He
said, ‘You have no idea, there are a lot of (financial) incentives on the line.’

The son told the father what was at stake for him personally.</p>

“So I said, ‘Get back to work!’ ” Al Sr. said with a hearty laugh.</p>

Al wants those incentives for Toni and Alex to “give them all the things they
deserve and want.”</p>

They want to reunite as a family. This offseason, it might happen with a move
for Toni and Alex to Jersey.</p>

The sacrifices could soon be over.</p>

“She’s a saint for putting up with me and doing everything that she’s had to
deal with,” Al said. “I want to be there for them.”</p>

Toni is just as supportive.</p>

“I always tell him we’ve taken the scenic route,” she said. “You just have to
enjoy the journey and wherever it takes you, it takes you.”</p>GIANTS' MATHIAS KIWANUKA AND HIS BROTHER HAVE BECOME CLOSER AFTER HORRIFYING MOTOR CYCLE ACCIDENT (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/02/giants_mathia_kiwanuka_grow_cl.html)

"Mom was doing fine, until her older son stood up, straight and tall, strong and
confident, and gazed out the dining room window at a stubborn morning fog.
That’s when Deodata Kiwanuka’s eyes grew misty and the index finger of her right
hand brushed aside a rogue tear.

“Just to see him stand like that. Mmmm, Mmmm, Mmmm,” she said. “You’d think
I’d be over it by now, but that’s my baby, and we almost lost him. But now, look
at him ...”</p>

Ben Kiwanuka — “Humpty Dumpty put back together again,” his mother says —
hasn’t fully healed, physically or psychologically, from <a href="http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/01/giants_mathias_kiwanuka_prefer.html">the
motorcycle accident</a> that nearly sucked the life out of him as he lay in the
arms of his younger brother, Giants (http://www.nj.com/giants/)
linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, on that sunny day in May 2010. </p>

There are daily aches and pains, which is to be expected after crushing and
extensive injuries. He jokes that he “can tell you when it’s going to rain or
snow about 18 hours before the storm arrives,” and family members chuckle at
one-liners like that, but things were serious, deadly serious, that day — a day
Ben Kiwanuka relives almost every time he closes his eyes.</p>


Surprised by his brother’s visit, the Kiwanuka boys went riding, like they
had for the two years since Mathias had bought a pair of Honda CBR 1,000s —
black for Ben, silver for himself. It was a warm day and the two drifted
wherever the roads took them. They stopped for lunch, then for gas. From there,
they would split up — Ben to his place, Mathias to their mother’s home.
</p>But on a split-second decision, Ben opted to stick with Mathias: “I wanted to
make sure my baby brother got home all right,” he said. “Silly, huh? He’s a
grown man. Don’t ask me why I did that. I’ve asked myself a thousand times and I
have no idea.”

Between the gas station and Deodata’s house, it happened: A woman pulled out
of a housing development and Ben didn’t see the car. He slammed into the front
side and was flung from the bike. As he flew roughly 150 feet, he tumbled over
and over before landing, wrists first, on the pavement. He bounced. Bones
snapped with every impact. He slid. And the road raked the skin from his head
and body.</p>

His pelvis was broken, his ribs were cracked, his left leg fractured and his
heart bruised. Blood was spurting from a large hole in his upper left arm, which
was punctured, doctors guess, by the handlebar of the motorcycle at impact.
Eventually, 10 pints of blood would stream from his body.</p>

And Mathias watched it all in a sort of terrifying slow motion.</p>

“I wanted to reach out and grab him,” Mathias said, “but I couldn’t.”</p>

He ran to his brother’s side, jumping over the wreckage of the bike in the
street and cradling him in his arms. Ben, in shock and mumbling, kept trying to
sit up. His brother held him down. Bystanders called for an ambulance. Mathias
called his mother.</p>

“Mom, there’s been an accident,” he said. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m


Deodata, a former nurse, walked her son through the care — until she heard
Ben scream and the phone went dead. Her knees buckled, but she rushed to the car
and headed to the crash site, then to the hospital, wondering about the scream,
which told her this was more than just a scratch.</p>

“That scream was Mathias jamming his shirt into my wound,” Ben said. “I
would’ve died right there if not for him. He saved my life. Absolutely.”</p>

For three weeks, Ben Kiwanuka slowly mended in the hospital surrounded by
family members, friends and bedside prayer vigils attended by fellow church
members. And all the time, Mathias kept telling his family, “I’m sorry, I’m
sorry, I’m sorry.”</p>

“It was the most painful experience of my life,” Mathias said this week as he
prepared for Super Bowl XLVI. “It’s something I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
Watching him go through the entire process was tough and emotional, but we
pulled through as a family.</p>

“Ben has gotten to the point where he is now because he’s a strong man. If
you didn’t know him before the accident, you wouldn’t have known he had a
life-threatening motorcycle accident. He’ll have some issues going forward, but
his spirits are high.”</p>

Ben Kiwanuka says spirits are high because “the pendulum has swung.” For
years, it seemed, the family was caught in a twister of calamity. When the
Giants reached the Super Bowl in 2008, Mathias was sidelined by injury. After
saving his brother’s life, he suffered a herniated cervical disk in his neck
that put his football career in jeopardy. As his brother lay with pins and
screws and rods in his body, family members counseled Mathias to quit, before
football left them with another broken man.</p>

But doctors eventually cleared Mathias to play, and he returned to the
Giants, and Ben continued to improve. And now, less than 10 miles from the crash
site and even closer to the East Side neighborhood the Kiwanuka boys called
home, Mathias will play in Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday, his brother cheering

“It’s only February,” Ben says, “and already it’s been some year. The tide is


They are closer now than they ever have been, the Kiwanuka brothers. Born six
years apart, they didn’t hang together much growing up. Snapshots in a stack of
photos show them together during family moments, but the age difference placed
them in separate worlds. As the older one, Ben is the cooler one in the photos,
usually better dressed. Mathias is shown, in his underwear, either in boxing
poses or flexing his 5-year-old biceps.</p>

“He’s saying, ‘Look at me, mama, I’m strong, like Popeye,’?” Deodata says
with a laugh. “We always made them eat their vegetables so they would be

That strength, physical and mental, they have carried with them — after a
childhood of roller coasters and bungee-jumping, parasailing and motorcycles.
But they’re not so strong that they can’t, or won’t, lean on each other. They
are linked by guilt and sorrow, by second-guesses and what-ifs, but also by the
sibling contract that they’ll never ride a motorcycle again.</p>

They also are coupled by the feeling that the world has changed for them.
They’ve taken its best shots, and now it’s their turn to start chucking
haymakers. Ben has a wife and two kids. Mathias is engaged, with a chance at a
second Super Bowl ring. Deodata is giddy that the lives of her mama’s boys are

They’re laughing at the family photos, when they let a secret slip: Mathias
is known as “Tia,” because his younger sister, Mary, couldn’t pronounce his name
and the nickname stuck. It wasn’t until sixth grade that Mathias figured
something out.</p>

“Someone said something at school and he came home all mad,” Ben recalled.
“He said, ‘You’ve been calling me a girl’s name?’ I said, ‘Hey, bro, don’t blame
me.’ </p>

“Now that one was not my fault.”</p>

GIANTS' JAKE BALLARD GREW UP SHARING COMPETITIVE SPIRIT WITH HIS TWIN BROTHER (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/02/road_to_the_super_bowl_giants_3.html)</p>

"He turned away from the shrine of his family’s athletic achievements — a d***le
of wood and silver and bronze that filled the wall of a room downstairs — and as
he began his ascent up the stairs, Josh Ballard paused to point out a modest

“Look at this — I was pumped because I got this award for Top Senior Football
Player,” said the brother and archrival-from-birth of Giants (http://www.nj.com/giants/) tight end Jake Ballard. “I was like,
‘Yeah! I got something Jake didn’t get!’?”</p>

At long last, he might have added.</p>

Only you have to wait for the punch line: </p>

“And then the next award was for ‘Top Senior Male Athlete.’ And Jake took
that,” Josh said with a comedian’s timing. </p>

“So as usual, Jake took the whole cake.” </p>

Think it’s easy being a twin? For the most part, it has worked out well for
both, actually. One reached the NFL and has inspired undrafted, unappreciated
players everywhere. And while the other still wonders why he’s 4 inches shorter
and 45 pounds lighter, he cheerfully accepts the fact that there’s no getting
around a prescribed athletic hierarchy in the Ballard family.</p>

Put it this way: At Springboro High, which is just across the street, their
mom (Debby) and sister (Becky) were in the school’s athletic Hall of Fame long
before Jake ever made it, and their grandfather (Gil Burson) was enshrined
decades earlier for being one of the top basketball scorers in the school’s

And then, both boys had to take all their orders from their father, Ben, who
coached them in both baseball and football at Springboro High.</p>


So Josh is humble enough to laugh it off, and find solace from the fact that
it was his own competitiveness that helped his brother reach the Super Bowl in
his first full year as a pro.</p>

“My husband and I have talked a lot about that, whether that (competitive
spirit) is born or nurtured,” Debby Ballard said. “And while I don’t think you
can actually put it in anybody, let’s say that being a twin didn’t exactly hurt
either of them when it comes to having the drive to accomplish something. </p>

“They’ve grown closer as they got older. When they were little, they were
very competitive with each other — whether it was playing a game or running to
see who got the TV remote first.”</p>

“Obviously I’m not in the NFL, but I think it helped him with his mindset,”
Josh agreed. “We were competing 24 hours a day over everything, whether it was
in a video game or playing baseball in the front yard — who could hit the most
over our driveway? I think it did help. It helps him try to be better than the
person next to him.”</p>


That still doesn’t mean Josh has forgiven his parents for the egregious
genetic slight, of course.</p>

“Everyone’s first reaction is, ‘You guys are twins?’ Even guys I’ve known for
years say, ‘no way,’?” the 6-2, 230-pound Josh said of the 6-6, 275-pound Jake.
“I always say Jake is 4 inches taller because he was born four minutes before
me, and was exposed to oxygen sooner. Or, Jake just used to steal food from me a

“Believe it or not, they both started at 20.5 inches long,” Debby said. “And
whatever happened after that, I have no idea.”</p>

Of course, life has its compensations. Jake has the NFL career, but Josh got
the looks and the brains. He has done some modeling (mostly print work), but
that’s not in his long-term future. Indeed, when we made our final stop along
our road to Super Bowl LXVI, here in the splendid suburbs of southwest Ohio, the
last thing we expected to find in an NFL player’s kitchen was a textbook open to
a page on hip anatomy.</p>

But that’s what the brainier twin does: He has just begun medical sales work,
for an orthopedic firm that provides things like artificial hips and implants,
and he’ll soon be sitting in on surgeries to provide information the surgeon
needs as he or she performs a procedure.
This is the real family business:
Debby is a surgical nurse, so she is delighted by Josh’s choice of

“Josh has the personality and drive and interest for it,” she said. “And I’ll
be able to help him with the questions he’ll have with different surgical


His great avocation, however, is being Jake Ballard’s chief advocate. Josh
Ballard, a standout linebacker at Morehead State (where he graduated in three
years), was one of the few who saw this transformation coming, knew that this
tight end with 34 receptions in four years at Ohio State could get 38 catches in
his first full season with the Giants.

“We always knew he could catch, and they just started throwing him the ball,”
Josh said. “He showed he was dependable and that he could make big plays. And I
think Eli became really confident in him after that first Patriots game.”</p>

And for the record, Josh was the guy who — early this season — asserted in a
local paper that his brother would have won the TE job from Kevin Boss even if
the free agent didn’t head West. </p>

“I just know that Jake’s the kind of person who wouldn’t settle for not being
No. 1,” Josh Ballard explained. </p>

“Don’t get me wrong, I think Kevin Boss is a great player. I just know the
personality my brother has. And his competitive edge: He doesn’t settle for
getting beat. If he does get beat, he goes back and studies and figures out what
he has to do to get better, and that’s how he’ll get on top.”</p>

DO THE GIANTS HAVE ANOTHER DAVID TYREE IN THE WINGS? (http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/02/politi_do_the_giants_have_anot.html)</p>

"The surprise star for the Giants (http://www.nj.com/giants/) in this
Super Bowl does not have to catch a desperation pass up against his helmet to be
the next David Tyree. But wouldn’t it be perfect if he did? </p>

“I made one like that in college,” says Jerrel Jernigan, who — like Tyree —
is a little-used receiver for this team. </p>

Reeeaaally. Do tell. </p>

“I was playing for Troy against Florida Atlantic, my sophomore year,” he
explains. “I was running an out-route to the sideline and caught the ball with
one hand on my helmet.”</p>

Did you make the cover of Sports Illustrated, too? Did you get a book deal to
tell your story and become an instant star? </p>

“Nah, nothing like that,” he laughs. “But you can see it on YouTube. People
in the stands were like, ‘Oh my God, he didn’t just do that?’ It was no big deal
<a href="http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/02/tom_brady_comments_on_giants_f.html">like
David Tyree.</a> </p>

“I mean, it wasn’t like I was playing in the Super Bowl or anything.”</p>

Jernigan is playing in the Super Bowl now. There is a chance he might not
step onto the field, of course. Jernigan is a rookie. He does not have a single
catch this season, pitching in mostly on special teams. He is living in the NFL
margins, waiting for his chance to make an impact for the first time as a pro.

But that is the beauty of what Tyree did in Super Bowl XLII, his
transformation from obscurity to legend with one impossible catch. Without the
help of Nostradamus, it would be just as impossible to pick the next Tyree off
this Giants roster. Still, there’s no harm in trying.
The ground rules: </p>

1. The candidate must be someone who made a limited impact during the regular
season. Tyree, remember, had just four catches in the 2007 season before his
miracle catch in Arizona.</p>

2. The player should have a personal history that makes his story even more
compelling. Tyree, who battled alcohol addiction and was arrested for marijuana
possession, had become a born-again Christian. </p>

So Jernigan, the kid with the helmet catch in college, is No. 1 on our list
of potential Tyrees. Here are four other candidates: </p>


The question comes out of nowhere, but for Chase Blackburn these past two
weeks, any question unrelated to his near-decision to enter <a href="http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2012/01/politi_giants_have_been_bolste.html">a
life of substitute teaching</a> does.

Blackburn has a compelling story, and because of that, he gets to tell it
again … and again … and again. You probably could recite it yourself by now: The
linebacker was out of football, about to fulfill the requirements to become a
substitute teacher in his hometown, when the Giants called.</p>

“Last Super Bowl (with the Giants), I think I was sitting here playing cards
with everybody because nobody wanted to talk to me,” he says. “It is a great
story. I understand that. But I never lost faith in myself.”</p>

So back to the question that caught him off guard: Does he know Mike Jones’
claim to fame in the Super Bowl? </p>

He did not. St. Louis Rams fans could give him the details: Tennessee
quarterback Steve McNair was on the verge of leading the Titans to a stunning
comeback in Super Bowl XXXIV, firing a pass to Kevin Dyson at the 4-yard line.
Jones, a linebacker, dived toward Dyson’s feet to tackle him just a yard short
of the goal line as time expired. </p>

So why can’t the next Tyree be a defensive hero? Why can’t it be a linebacker
plucked from his living room late in the season and thrown into an important
role for the Giants, saving the game with a tackle? </p>

“It’d be nice, obviously, to make a play to win the game or give our team a
chance to win,” Blackburn says. “But no matter what, even if it’s one man
stopping a guy on the goal line, it takes an entire defense to

02-04-2012, 11:39 AM
Thanks as always RF! Can't believe the game is tomorrow! You feeling good about it?

02-04-2012, 11:51 AM
thanks Roanoke !!!

02-04-2012, 12:15 PM
Thanks as always RF! Can't believe the game is tomorrow! You feeling good about it?

I have an inexplicably good feeling about the outcome. I'm normally optimistic, but this is just a calm, reassuring sense that we ARE ALL IN and will win by 10 points.

02-04-2012, 12:15 PM
thanks Roanoke !!!


02-04-2012, 03:19 PM
thanks Roanoke!</P>

got all my gear ready for tomorrow. cant wait!</P>


<FONT color=#0000ff size=4>Go Giants!</FONT></P>

02-04-2012, 06:30 PM
thanks Roanoke!</p>

got all my gear ready for tomorrow. cant wait!</p>


<font color="#0000ff" size="4">Go Giants!</font></p>

It's been an amazing ride so far

02-04-2012, 07:53 PM
Thanks as always RF! Can't believe the game is tomorrow! You feeling good about it?

I have an inexplicably good feeling about the outcome. I'm normally optimistic, but this is just a calm, reassuring sense that we ARE ALL IN and will win by 10 points.

Nice Ro....</P>

just what I need to hear...</P>

and thanks for the news.....as always...</P>

02-04-2012, 08:01 PM
Thanks as always RF! Can't believe the game is tomorrow! You feeling good about it?

I have an inexplicably good feeling about the outcome. I'm normally optimistic, but this is just a calm, reassuring sense that we ARE ALL IN and will win by 10 points.

Nice Ro....</p>

just what I need to hear...</p>

and thanks for the news.....as always...</p>

We need the game to start lol

02-04-2012, 08:13 PM
Thanks as always RF! Can't believe the game is tomorrow! You feeling good about it?

I have an inexplicably good feeling about the outcome. I'm normally optimistic, but this is just a calm, reassuring sense that we ARE ALL IN and will win by 10 points.

Nice Ro....</P>

just what I need to hear...</P>

and thanks for the news.....as always...</P>

We need the game to start lol

at 6:29 AM on Sunday you will get the 12 hours to go text....lol</P>

02-04-2012, 09:49 PM
Thanks as always RF! Can't believe the game is tomorrow! You feeling good about it?

I have an inexplicably good feeling about the outcome.* I'm normally optimistic, but this is just a calm, reassuring sense that we ARE ALL IN and will win by 10 points.

Sounds good to me! [B]

G-Men Surg.
02-05-2012, 03:04 AM
Thanks RF !

02-05-2012, 05:59 AM
Thanks RF !


02-05-2012, 05:59 AM
Thanks as always RF! Can't believe the game is tomorrow! You feeling good about it?

I have an inexplicably good feeling about the outcome. I'm normally optimistic, but this is just a calm, reassuring sense that we ARE ALL IN and will win by 10 points.

Sounds good to me! [B]


02-05-2012, 06:00 AM
Thanks as always RF! Can't believe the game is tomorrow! You feeling good about it?

I have an inexplicably good feeling about the outcome. I'm normally optimistic, but this is just a calm, reassuring sense that we ARE ALL IN and will win by 10 points.

Nice Ro....</p>

just what I need to hear...</p>

and thanks for the news.....as always...</p>

We need the game to start lol

at 6:29 AM on Sunday you will get the 12 hours to go text....lol</p>

I'll try to be here [:(]