NEW YORK -- The players-only meeting with Lawrence Taylor presiding yesterday morning lasted just five minutes. But it was what was said, not how long it took to say. The Giants reaffirmed their commitment to the '91 season and told themselves they won't win unless they remember they're in this together.
"I don't think the team's in disarray," said Bart Oates, one of the team's most respected veterans. "It was a reassurance. We know what we want to do. Let's make sure we're all on the same page. It was just a matter of guys expressing their views and being able to communicate with their peers. That's why it's so valuable. There was no finger-pointing."
Taylor and Leonard Marshall did the talking. Five weeks into a Super Bowl defense that is threatening to be a repeat of their disappointing strike-marred 6-9 season in '87, the Giants have been second-guessed and harshly criticized by the fans and media. Several have grumbled anonymously about the coaches, the game plans, the systems being used. Yesterday was a chance to speak freely.
"It was very businesslike," Steve DeOssie said. "No tirades. The emotions were strong because everybody feels strongly about it."
"It wasn't the rallying type like we've had in the past," Maurice Carthon said. "It wasn't the typical one where a lot of guys get up and speak."
Taylor and Marshall are two of a very small number of Giants who have performed up to their potential this season. Several players admitted it's time each one looked within.
"You can't just worry about yourself, but basically a lot of you people write the Giants are accusing each other of this and that, and it's the coach's fault for this and that," Mark Collins said. "We're not doing that. I just think sometimes it may come to a point where even before you can accuse somebody, look at yourself first. I know I haven't been playing well. I haven't played worth a damn. I know I can play better."
"When you win, you should talk about everybody else," said kicker Matt Bahr, one of the few Giants who has performed up to Super Bowl expectations. "When you lose, you should only look at yourself."
They were an outstanding team a year ago, but they're not now. Coach Ray Handley put the situation in perspective when he said, in response to a question about the team's problems being correctable: "I don't think we're that far away from being a pretty good team."
"Each player has to look at himself," Oates said. "Regardless of what is said by outsiders, each player has to evaluate his performance."
Oates and a majority of Giants were upset yesterday about a published story in which one veteran anonymously criticized Handley, the decision to start Jeff Hostetler over Phil Simms, and the team's attitude.
"I have an open-door policy," Handley said. "If anyone's disgruntled, they're more than welcome to come to me."
Sunday's game vs. Phoenix at Giants Stadium is critical.
"Now our backs are really to the wall," Carthon said. "Usually when we're in an adverse situation we come out swinging. This is about as adverse as it can get."