Giants replay moment before fast-forwarding

Game plan in works, then business as usual

January 16, 2001|By Neil Best | Neil Best,NEWSDAY

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Jim Fassel celebrated the biggest victory of his life in his customary fashion. He went to bed early. But falling asleep was another matter.

It was between 1 and 3 a.m. yesterday, the New York Giants coach said, that he finally got the chance to reflect on the magnitude of his team's accomplishment 12 hours earlier. He soon was back at the office watching tape of the Giants' extraordinary 41-0 rout of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game. That clinched it. It really did happen.

"That was without a doubt the best game we've played in my four years here," he said.

Fassel and his staff spent yesterday working on logistics for the next two weeks and getting a start on dissecting the Ravens, their opponent in Super Bowl XXXV on Jan. 28. The players were off. But it was clear that given the emotions of Sunday's celebration, everyone concerned could use this relatively quiet week before the trip to the big game.

"The Super Bowl will be great; I'm sure it will have its own special place," quarterback Kerry Collins said. "But that stadium [Sunday], with the way the fans were, all the towels waving, the energy there ... and to win like we did, and to be up there with Mr. [Wellington] Mara, Ernie [Accorsi] and everybody, holding that trophy up, it was a special day that anything from here on out will never be able to replace."

Perhaps so, but a parade in Manhattan might be nice, too. Collins unofficially kicked off the Super Bowl hype by revealing what he told New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani after the game.

"I said, `If we win, we're having a parade in the city, right?' " Collins said. "He said, `Yeah, you guys can do whatever you want.' "

First things first. The players will be off again today while the coaches formulate a game plan, then they will practice each day from tomorrow through Saturday, before flying to Tampa on Sunday. As every Super Bowl coach does, Fassel will issue a stern reminder tomorrow that it will be a business trip, so never mind the infamous Super Bowl festivities.

"We're going down there to play a football game, not to get caught up in the other stuff," Fassel said. "We're not going down there for a vacation."

The Giants have minimal Super Bowl experience. Only tight end Howard Cross (Giants), guard Glenn Parker (Bills) and former Cowboys Ron Stone, Dave Thomas and Jason Garrett have been on Super Bowl teams.

But Fassel is counting on the levelheaded approach his team has had so far, and should get some help from veterans who have witnessed the hoopla and can counsel younger players.

Defensive end Michael Strahan said he has been in the Super Bowl city the past seven years. He intended to avoid watching the game until he played in one, but his wife, Jean, persuaded him to attend last season.

"I always told myself, `Go to the Super Bowls, go to the parties, hang out, do everything, because when you go as a player, you aren't going to do any of it,' " he said. "Now I won't feel like I'm missing anything because I've done it."

Strahan said he talked about that to cornerback Jason Sehorn, who also has attended Super Bowls before, and the two agreed that having done so will be a benefit.

"We have that out of our system," Strahan said. "If you win a Super Bowl, there's no party like in New York City. Then we'll enjoy it."

Strahan said as much fun as the playoff run has been to this point, "the only way to make this season a success is to win. Anything short of that makes it seem like a great story without a good ending."

Collins also has attended Super Bowls, and he knows he is in for another round of questions about his past personal problems. The team plans to limit him to one day of discussing the details of his recovery from alcohol abuse; after that, it will be football only.

All of that seemed far away yesterday, though. Fassel still had the sound of the crowd Sunday echoing in his ears, and he imagined what that kind of enthusiasm could do for the team in the future.

"If we maintain that, we're going to be hard to beat in our own stadium," he said. "When we introduced our three honorary captains and our defense and that crowd's going crazy and those towels are going, I tell you, that's hard. That is a big hurdle to overcome."

Fassel's immediate task was plotting as routine a practice week as possible while trying to acknowledge waves of well-wishers. He left the post-game party in the team's indoor practice bubble after a few minutes Sunday night because too many people wanted to talk to him.

When he arrived in the office yesterday, he discovered dozens of phone messages that overloaded his voice mail system.

"Just well-wishers," he said. "You know, `I've been thinking about you a lot, and by the way, do you have any tickets?' "

Injury report

Fassel said there were no significant injuries in the NFC championship game, and the two weeks before the game should allow nagging problems to clear up.

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