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    NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2012 - 11:30 A.M.

    HERE NOW THE NEWS

    THE DATA WILL UPDATE THROUGHOUT THE DAY AND SHOW THE UPDATE TIME IN THE HEADER.

    NFC EAST DIVISION CHAMPIONS
    NFC CONFERENCE CHAMPIONS

    PLAYOFFS 3 - 0: ON TO INDIANAPOLIS!

    NEWARK STAR LEDGER

    GIANTS' TOM COUGHLIN USED KURT WARNER'S ADVICE TO HELP CONNECT WITH PLAYERS, BECOME A CHAMPION

    "In 2004, when his players revolted during his first season with the 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.




    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.




    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.




    “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.”




    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.




    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.




    A FATEFUL FAVOR




    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.”




    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.”

    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.”




    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.”




    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.”




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




    “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.




    “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.’?”




    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.




    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.




    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 …”




    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.”




    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.

    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
    had.


    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.




    “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.”




    TRUE BELIEVERS




    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
    forbearance.




    “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.”

    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.”




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




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




    “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.”




    Warner paused and smirked.




    “Let me ask you this: Do you think they question him for a second now?”

    IZENBERG: SUPER BOWL MACTHUP BETWEEN GIANTS AND PATRIOTS IS A GREAT ONE

    "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.




    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?




    The Pats and 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.




    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.




    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.




    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.”

    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.




    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.




    “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.”




    And most players never get there.




    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.




    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.




    And beyond that?

    Well, beyond that is the oldest of professional football clichés:


    “Offense wins football games but defense wins championships.”




    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
    Pats.




    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.




    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.”




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




    Defense figures to give the Giants the style to win."



    JOHN MARA, ROBERT KRAFT MT IN SUPER BOWL AFTER SAVING NFL SEASON



    "Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI will end with elation for either the Giants or New England Patriots. Months ago,
    there was instead frustration and tension in the league, during the drawn-out
    labor negotiations.




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




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




    Mara, the Giants owner, looked directly at the retired linebacker.




    “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.”




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




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




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




    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.




    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
    season.




    “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.




    Mara had watched his
    father, Wellington Mara,
    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.




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




    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.




    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.




    “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.




    “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.”




    Kraft’s
    “sweetheart” lost her battle
    with cancer July 20, after 48 years of
    marriage.




    Five days later, the sides announced that they had reached a deal.




    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.




    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.




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




    “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.”




    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.




    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.



    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.




    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.




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




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




    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.




    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.




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




    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
    them.




    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.”




    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
    ring.




    You could call Sunday night’s game the fruits of their labor.




    “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.”

    GIANTS' DEON GRANT AND PATRIOTS' SHAUN ELLIE ARE CLOSE FRIENDS AT A CROSSROADS AGAIN

    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.




    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.




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




    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.




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




    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.




    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 — 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.




    “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.”




    ALWAYS THERE FOR SUPPORT




    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...




    PATRIOTS' GRONKOWSKI DOING BETTER, COACH SAYS

    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 the
    one who'll make the decision
    whether he'll play Sunday against the Giants. He was listed as "questionable" on
    Friday's injury report.




    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.




    “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...

    GIANTS DON'T LET BROKEN DOWN BUS DISRUPT SATURDAY SCHEDULE

    "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.”



    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.’)




    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.”




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




    “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.”




    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."

    GIANTS' GM JERRY REESE RECOGNIZES THE FINE LINE IN THE NFL

    "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.



    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.




    “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.”




    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.




    “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.”

    THE PATRIOTS MAY HAVE THE ANSWER TO THE GIANTS' PASS RUSH; NO HUDDLE OFFENSE

    "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.




    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.




    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.




    “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.”

    GIANTS' PRACTICE SQUAD MEMBERS ENJOYING SUPER BOWL RIDE, DESPITE NOT BEING ABLE TO PLAY IN BIG GAME

    "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.




    "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
    here."




    When Super Bowl XLVI kicks off on Sunday evening, Brown will be alongside the
    other seven members of the 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.




    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.




    "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."




    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.




    "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."




    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.




    "It's definitely different for us," said former Rutgers 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."




    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."

    "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.




    "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."




    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."




    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.




    "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."

    VICTOR CRUZ STARRED ON COURTS OF PATERSON, N.J. LONG BEFORE CATCHING PASSES FOR GIANTS' SUPER BOWL RUN

    "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
    was.


    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.




    It was Victor Cruz.




    Yes, that Victor Cruz.




    "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."




    This season, the Paterson-born Cruz has become the talk of the NFL. He has
    spear-headed a rejuvenated 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.




    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, he calls Rutgers point guard Myles Mack
    his "little brother."




    "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
    face."




    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.

    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.'"




    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.




    "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."




    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.




    But even back then, there was no doubting which sport he would pursue.




    "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

    "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
    repeatedly.


    About 6 miles away, her husband Al, a defensive assistant coach, was at
    practice with the Giants in the team’s
    final full workout before Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots.




    “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.”




    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.




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




    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.




    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.




    They’re still trying it out.

    “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.”




    It’s getting more difficult.




    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.




    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
    disappointed.




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




    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.




    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.




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




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




    This is cute. So how does Alex recommend stopping Ryan?




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




    Wait, what?




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




    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.”




    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.

    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.”




    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.




    “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.




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




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




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




    The sacrifices could soon be over.




    “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.”




    Toni is just as supportive.




    “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.”

    GIANTS' MATHIAS KIWANUKA AND HIS BROTHER HAVE BECOME CLOSER AFTER HORRIFYING MOTOR CYCLE ACCIDENT

    "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 ...”




    Ben Kiwanuka — “Humpty Dumpty put back together again,” his mother says —
    hasn’t fully healed, physically or psychologically, from the
    motorcycle accident
    that nearly sucked the life out of him as he lay in the
    arms of his younger brother, Giants
    linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka, on that sunny day in May 2010.




    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.




    •?•?•?




    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.

    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.




    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.




    And Mathias watched it all in a sort of terrifying slow motion.




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




    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.




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




    •?•?•?




    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.



    “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.”




    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.”




    “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.



    “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.”




    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.




    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
    him.




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




    •?•?•?




    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.




    “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
    strong.”



    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.




    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
    ascending.




    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.




    “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.’




    “Now that one was not my fault.”



    GIANTS' JAKE BALLARD GREW UP SHARING COMPETITIVE SPIRIT WITH HIS TWIN BROTHER



    "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
    plaque.




    “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 tight end Jake Ballard. “I was like,
    ‘Yeah! I got something Jake didn’t get!’?”




    At long last, he might have added.




    Only you have to wait for the punch line:




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




    “So as usual, Jake took the whole cake.”




    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.




    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
    history.




    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.




    •?•?•?




    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.



    “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.




    “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.”




    “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.”




    •?•?•?




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




    “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
    lot.”




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



    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.




    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
    profession.




    “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
    techniques.”

    •?•?•?




    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.”




    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.




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




    “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.”



    DO THE GIANTS HAVE ANOTHER DAVID TYREE IN THE WINGS?



    "The surprise star for the 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?




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




    Reeeaaally. Do tell.




    “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.”




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




    “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
    like
    David Tyree.




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




    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:




    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.




    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.




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




    THE SUBSTITUTE TACKLER




    The question comes out of nowhere, but for Chase Blackburn these past two
    weeks, any question unrelated to his near-decision to enter a
    life of substitute teaching
    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.




    “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.”




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




    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.




    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?




    “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
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1








    # 80

  2. #2
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    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2012 - 11:30 A.M.

    Thanks as always RF! Can't believe the game is tomorrow! You feeling good about it?

  3. #3

    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2012 - 11:30 A.M.

    thanks Roanoke !!!

  4. #4
    Moderator RoanokeFan's Avatar
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    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2012 - 11:30 A.M.

    [quote user="NY_Eli"]Thanks as always RF! Can't believe the game is tomorrow! You feeling good about it?[/quote]

    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.
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1








    # 80

  5. #5
    Moderator RoanokeFan's Avatar
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    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2012 - 11:30 A.M.

    [quote user="shocknaweny"]thanks Roanoke !!![/quote]

    [B]
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1








    # 80

  6. #6

    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2012 - 11:30 A.M.



    thanks Roanoke!




    got all my gear ready for tomorrow. cant wait!







    Go Giants!


  7. #7
    Moderator RoanokeFan's Avatar
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    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2012 - 11:30 A.M.

    [quote user="BigBlue1971"]

    thanks Roanoke!




    got all my gear ready for tomorrow. cant wait!







    Go Giants!

    [/quote]

    It's been an amazing ride so far
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1








    # 80

  8. #8
    All-Pro GameTime's Avatar
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    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2012 - 11:30 A.M.



    [quote user="RoanokeFan"][quote user="NY_Eli"]Thanks as always RF! Can't believe the game is tomorrow! You feeling good about it?[/quote]

    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.
    [/quote]




    Nice Ro....




    just what I need to hear...




    and thanks for the news.....as always...

    "Measure Twice......Cut Once"
    You couldn't be more full of **** if you were break dancing in a Port-a-Potty.......Kruunch

  9. #9
    Moderator RoanokeFan's Avatar
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    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2012 - 11:30 A.M.

    [quote user="GameTime"]

    [quote user="RoanokeFan"][quote user="NY_Eli"]Thanks as always RF! Can't believe the game is tomorrow! You feeling good about it?[/quote]

    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.
    [/quote]




    Nice Ro....




    just what I need to hear...




    and thanks for the news.....as always...

    [/quote]

    We need the game to start lol
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1








    # 80

  10. #10
    All-Pro GameTime's Avatar
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    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2012 - 11:30 A.M.

    [quote user="RoanokeFan"][quote user="GameTime"]


    [quote user="RoanokeFan"][quote user="NY_Eli"]Thanks as always RF! Can't believe the game is tomorrow! You feeling good about it?[/quote]

    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.
    [/quote]




    Nice Ro....




    just what I need to hear...




    and thanks for the news.....as always...




    [/quote]

    We need the game to start lol
    [/quote]




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

    "Measure Twice......Cut Once"
    You couldn't be more full of **** if you were break dancing in a Port-a-Potty.......Kruunch

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