Cross finds himself on familiar ground

But tight end remembers Super Bowl XXV in Tampa as different experience

Giants notebook

January 25, 2001|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,SUN STAFF

TAMPA, Fla. - The city was a little different the last time New York Giants tight end Howard Cross was in a Super Bowl here.

Security was much tighter. The nation was in the midst of the Gulf War. And, of course Cross, then 23, was more of a pass catcher.

This season, he had the same number of catches (four) that he had in that game 10 years ago, which was played at defunct Tampa Stadium, a 20-19 Giants win over the Buffalo Bills. Cross is the only current Giant on the roster from that game.

"When I think about the first Super Bowl, the country was at war," Cross said. "I think about the security around, guys in army fatigues, being frisked going into the stadium, Whitney Houston singing the national anthem. It was hard to think about the game with all that going on. It was pretty weird with guys walking around with M-16s and all, but that was part of it."

Cross was a backup to Mark Bavaro that season. Once Bavaro retired, Cross started 165 games for the Giants. Cross is used almost exclusively as a blocker now, with Pete Mitchell serving as the primary pass-catching tight end.

"Every year, it is something new," Cross said. "New guys, new faces, new attitudes, new successes and new failures. We've got a bunch of new guys in here, so this is a new experience."

On center stage

Giants offensive coordinator Sean Payton is not viewing Sunday's game as a chance to show the world what he can do against the league's stingiest defense.

He said there won't be any tricks - at least none he is admitting to - or any special deviation from what the Giants have done all season in achieving a good run-pass ratio.

"I think you have to be careful that your personality, your identity as an offense doesn't change too much in two weeks," Payton said.

Fassel's easy sell

Right from the start this season, Giants coach Jim Fassel had an easy sell.

Bringing in the likes of free agents Lomas Brown, Mike Barrow, Glenn Parker and Dave Thomas made an immediate impression on veterans like Jessie Armstead and Keith Hamilton.

"They all said, `Hey, coach, this has changed - these guys are pros.' They were excited about the new guys coming in, and right then I knew we were going to be together. And then it just grew from there," Fassel said.

No wear and tear

Giants quarterback Kerry Collins is showing no signs of wear over the course of this extended season, something Fassel monitors closely.

"Kerry will take all the snaps he needs to get ready," Fassel said. "Kerry is strong, he's been strong, and I don't plan on reducing his reps."

Turning point

If there was a single play that helped turn around the season for the Giants, it came Dec. 3 against the Washington Redskins in a 9-7 win at FedEx Field.

It came with time running down and the Giants holding a two-point lead.

It came when 44-year-old kicker Eddie Murray missed a 49-yard field-goal try with 50 seconds remaining.

"It would have taken a lot for us to come back from that one," Giants defensive end Michael Strahan recalled yesterday. "We really needed to win that game."

Remember me?

Former Giants coach Bill Parcells will make the ceremonial coin toss before Sunday's game. While Parcells has been back since the Giants won Super Bowl XXV here a decade ago, the memories of his team's victory over the Bills have been stirred.

Just not enough to make Parcells think about getting back into coaching.

"It's not my intention," said Parcells, who recently resigned as a Jets executive. "I'm going over to Jupiter to play golf."

No recount for Mitchell

Mitchell may have already scored the biggest upset of the Super Bowl.

Mitchell beat out teammate Jason Sehorn for the sexiest player in the Super Bowl, according to the online dating service update.com.

"Obviously, they've never seen me with my shirt off," Mitchell said.

End zone

Tackle Luke Petitgout injured his left ankle during an 11-on-11 drill, but he returned for the final 20 minutes of the Giants' practice after getting the ankle taped. "Somebody actually just rolled up on the back of [his ankle]," Fassel said. "He's fine." ... Safety Shaun Williams (hamstring) participated in about half of the 11-on-11 team drills, and cornerback Reggie Stephens (foot) was in only the individual portion of practice. They're both listed as probable, as are fullback Greg Comella (buttocks) and wide receiver Amani Toomer (ankle, knee).

Sun staff writers Ken Murray, Don Markus and Glenn P. Graham contributed to this article.

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