Giants' flight to Tampa turns into camera time

Camcorders capture Super Bowl arrival, warnings from Fassel

Super Bowl Xxxv

January 22, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

TAMPA, Fla. - The differences between yesterday's plane ride and all the others the New York Giants made earlier this season were mostly minor.

Except for one. There were camcorders galore.

So many camcorders, in fact, it must have looked like a rehearsal for Sunday's Super Bowl XXXV, where the Giants will face the Ravens. The Ravens will arrive today.

Giants receiver Ike Hilliard estimates at least one-third of his teammates played the role of amateur cameraman on the plane ride. That made the ride itself - a more than two-hour trip that landed the Giants in Tampa around 5 p.m. - a bit more jovial than normal.

But nothing too much was out of the ordinary.

"We had a lot of fun with it," Hilliard said. "A lot of guys with camcorders out are just trying to enjoy the experience. It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

Giants coach Jim Fassel used the time to temporarily switch the focus from how to beat the Ravens to a final warning on some of the pitfalls this week has to offer.

Included were a list of places Fassel encouraged players not to go, as well as some things he did not want them to do.

A few weeks ago, two professional hockey players were arrested for violating a local ordinance at an adult entertainment establishment.

Fassel did not want to see such a thing happen to any of his guys before the season's most important game.

"I've covered everything with them," Fassel said. "I talked about all the problems and all the ordinances down here. All the stuff that is going on.

"I told them, `If you guys want to go and have a great time at the Super Bowl, then go when we are not playing. Because we are coming down here to work.'

"They have to relax and be with their families. There is plenty of time for that. But there is also a time to prepare for the game."

Fassel issued a 12:30 a.m. curfew to the players, 11 p.m. the night before the game.

"I don't know what the whole deal down here is," defensive end Keith Hamilton said. "But to be on the safe side, I'm going to stay clear of some places.

"I'm an older guy. If [Fassel] tells me all of this stuff is going down, in my mind, I'm thinking that is some place I don't need to be. I can't really think of anything he said that was really off limits. He spoke to us about drinking and driving and how they really enforce that down here, but that is everyplace."

This is the first time the Giants have been to the Super Bowl since they beat the Buffalo Bills here 10 years ago. For Fassel, who implemented 85 percent of the game plan last week at the team's training facility in East Rutherford, N.J., this is his first Super Bowl as coach of the Giants.

"We're excited about being here," Fassel said. "I have a pretty good feel for this team. We had a good week of practice last week. Very good focus. This team has shown me maturity all week long.

"If you don't have your team focused in now and they don't believe in what you're saying and have things in place, you better not show up here, because you will get distracted."

Fassel held leading receiver Amani Toomer out of practice last week but expects him to return today or Wednesday. He said last week he should have every starter healthy, though running back Tiki Barber will likely wear a brace on his injured forearm.

Neither Toomer nor Barber was available for comment yesterday, but the Giants who were continued to express joy over reaching the Super Bowl.

It was a step beyond even what their coached promised. After a loss to the Detroit Lions in mid-November, Fassel guaranteed his team would make the playoffs. Since then, the Giants have won seven in a row, including a 41-0 blasting of the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game.

"Everybody goes into the season thinking about the Super Bowl," defensive end Michael Strahan said. "And after practice, everybody puts their hands up and breaks on `Super Bowl.' But it's a matter of making it come true. And I don't think we, at the time, believed it would come true. We're glad that it did, but it took some coaxing.

"We learned that it's not necessarily the team with the biggest names or the most popular or with the superstars. But it's the team that plays together as a team."

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