Shockey primed for big year

Tight end Jeremy Shockey is in better shape this year than he has been during his entire three-year stay with the team after being the first round draft pick in 2002. He is leaner -- assistant coach Mike Pope, who is in charge of the care and feeding of this man-child, says he is "under 250," when he has played at 260, 265 so far.

Shockey said he's faster, too, and that his injuries (surgery to implant a small screw which will prevent additional stress fractures and a pulled hamstring) are healed.

He is also anxious to become more of a part of the offense, and to that end is cautiously critical of the extent to which he was used as a blocker last year.

"The blocking," says offensive coordinator John Hufnagel, "was because we had to pick up the blitz and keep those rushers off the quarterback. We weren't healthy on the offensive line. We needed to use Jeremy to help."

Shockey complained, too, that his stock in trade as a rookie, when he caught 74 passes for 894 yards and earned NFC Rookie of the Year honors, was taken away from him last season. That would be the "seam pass routes" that he just loved.

Pope grinned. "It's tough to throw the seam pattern when there aren't any seams," he said. "Did he think defenses were just going to let him run that thing and catch deep passes and beat them? They adjusted. They used what we call a 'half-quarter-quarter' formation, spreading the two corners and the two safeties across the field in a line. No seams, no seam pattern. But when the defense takes something away from you -- and they can any time they want -- it is automatic that they give you something else."

What that ploy did was give the Giants more running opportunities, which they cashed in on handsomely. Tiki Barber gained 1,518 yards, averaging 4.7 yards per carry, and scored 13 touchdowns.

"We want to get Jeremy into the offense," Hufnagel said. "It is something we are working on all during this off-season. But you know? He turned into a pretty good blocker, too."

Now that's something the Miami Hurricane doesn't really like to hear.

And as far as being in his best NFL shape ever might provide a lesson to other players -- he avoided head coach Tom Coughlin's optional-but-mandatory off-season workout and conditioning program in order to work with Miami football players, past and present, in the tropical atmosphere of Coral Gables, Fla.

"I worked harder and got more done than if I had come up to New Jersey," he said. "It was good for me. It was the best thing I could do to help the team."

Shockey also eschews statistics. "They don't do anything for me," he said. "I want to win. I have never played for a losing team until I got here (the last two years have been played to a 10-22 record). I don't like losing."

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