Giants QB Eli Manning content to be himself
Eli Manning is never going to put up numbers like Tom Brady, be as glib as his brother Peyton, or be as exciting as Michael Vick.
It's just not him. While he is a behind-the-scenes practical joker, the unassuming Manning is someone who has buried his ego to lead a nose-to-the grindstone New York Giants' offense.
So for those hoping for weekly 300 yards passing performances or even repeats of last weekend's four-touchdown passing effort against Philadelphia that earned the eight-year veteran the NFC offensive player of the week award - forget it.
Manning is content to do whatever it takes to get a win, nothing more, nothing less.
''I'm not trying to put up certain numbers,'' Manning said Wednesday after the Giants held their first practice for this weekend's game in Arizona. ''I don't have any goals for my numbers, except for wins and trying to make good plays and put our team in a situation to win games.''
If it sounds boring, well, that's Eli. He is not going to say anything controversial.
During the recent lockout, Manning distanced himself from the media despite being the orchestrator of a couple of passing camps and a week of team practice.
His reasoning: He didn't want to say anything inappropriate.
On the field though, there is no doubt Manning is the Giants' leader.
Pro Bowl guard Chris Snee laughs about those who question Manning, who was named the Super Bowl MVP after the Giants win over New England in February 2008.
''I feel like he is always being criticized for something,'' Snee said. ''He does a great job of really dealing with everything he is given. He has a lot on his plate as far as what he has to do for our offense, and he does a great job with that. He is always overlooked and never gets the credit he deserves.''
Center David Baas, who signed with the Giants as a free agent, has been impressed with how smart Manning is and how well he understands the concepts behind the run-first offense.
''He is also a really good person,'' Baas said. ''I thought he might be a little standoffish at first when I got here. He hasn't been. He's been cool. He plays jokes on me all the time, but I give it right back when I can.''
Baas smiles about Manning's pranks, which have included hiding the center's uniform pants in a teammate's locker, spitting sunflower seeds all over him and throwing footballs at his head when he's not looking.
''It's normal stuff, nothing too crazy,'' Baas said. ''He's a good dude.''
Manning is also very focused.
''He does one of the best jobs I have seen of putting his ego aside,'' backup quarterback David Carr said. ''He takes pride in every play, even a running play. People don't see that. He wants the perfect angle for every run. He wants to ID the front, so my guys have the best possible play.''
Manning was at his best on Sunday in the 29-16 win over the Eagles. He completed 16 of 23 passes for 254 yards and no interceptions. His passer rating of 145.7 was a career high in a game in which he threw at least 20 passes.
It also marked the first time an Eagles' opponent has thrown for at least four touchdowns in a victory at Philadelphia since 1989, when San Francisco's Joe Montana had five TDs.
The performance also came after Manning had a so-so preseason and really didn't look for roughly the first six quarters of the regular season, playing without receiver Steve Smith and tight end Kevin Boss, who both were lost in free agency.
Manning completed 3 of his first 11 passes in the Giants' Monday night win over St. Louis on Sept. 19 and then everything clicked. Since then, he is 32-for-42 for 435 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions.
''I always feel good, I always feel confident in what we're doing,'' Manning said. ''No matter if at first you have a few incompletions or something happens. I always feel this series will be the one where I can complete every pass.''
A key for Manning is that he seems to be getting on the same page with young receivers Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz (2 TDs last week) and new tight end Jake Ballard.
''I think we have gotten better every game,'' Manning said. ''We have to keep taking strides, We're not where we need to be. We're not playing perfect football. There are still areas of improvement, but as long as we keep making strides, we'll be OK.''
Manning also believes he is going to get better, agreeing with the statement that Phil Simms and Steve Young played their best football after they hit 30, Manning's current age.
''I definitely think there is a lot of upside,'' Manning said. ''I have said I hope these next seven years of my career should be my best.''
Maybe it's what should be expected of someone whose father was an NFL star and whose brother is a guaranteed future Hall of Famer.
''He has some big shoes to follow,'' Snee said. ''I couldn't even imagine what that feels like. I think he has established his own name and his own game and that's probably something a lot of people could not have done. A lot of times, having the pressure of having your father and brother would be too much pressure for some people.
''It doesn't affect Eli whatsoever.''