EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Dave Meggett, the mercurial big-play performer for the New York Giants, was back with the team yesterday after being absent without leave Wednesday, an important practice day. The explanations have varied.
"He told me he had a personal problem to take care of," said Bill Parcells, the unsympathetic coach who indicated that Meggett would be subjected to extra work in preparation for the home game against the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. "We're going to make sure he's ready."
"I'm sick, man; no big deal," Meggett told a group of reporters in the locker room, and that was about all he had to say.
Illness was in keeping with an explanation offered earlier by his agent, Tony Agnone of Baltimore, who had said Meggett had "a virus."
It was also known that Meggett, a second-year player who was a sports management major in college at Towson State, was unhappy with his contract and that his absence may have been a take-notice message to Giants management.
Management's response was expected to be the standard $1,500 fine for missing practice, although Parcells would not confirm that.
"I never announce fines," the coach said.
What did Parcells tell Meggett when they met yesterday morning?
"I didn't tell him anything," said the coach. "Except he better know what he's doing come Sunday.
Would Meggett skip practice again, possibly to accentuate his complaints? Parcells did not think so.
There was no disputing Meggett's worth to the Giants as a kick returner and pass receiver in typical third-down situations.
Last season, his first with the team, the 5-foot-8, 180-pound runner from Charleston, S.C., compiled 1,807 all-purpose yards; broke Emlen Tunnell's 38-year-old Giants record for most yards returning punts, and was voted to the Pro Bowl. He earned $205,000 last season, including incentive bonuses.
This season, Meggett has a 68-yard punt-return touchdown and 221 all-purpose yards in two games. His base salary is $90,000, one of the lowest on the team but commensurate with that of a fifth-round draft choice in a second season.