Giants season-opening notes

Award winners: RB Tiki Barber walked home with two awards from the Giants kickoff luncheon. The record-setting running back was named the team's Most Valuable Player and the Offensive Player of the Year for the 2004 season. Barber rushed for a Giants-record 1,518 yards last season.

Osi Umenyiora, who led the Giants with seven sacks a year ago, received the Defensive Player of the Year award. David Tyree, who had a team-high 23 special teams tackles, was named the Special Teams Player of the Year. Eli Manning received the award for Rookie of the Year.

"I think the other award winners will agree with me that these honors are great, but without team success, there really isn't anything to be truly happy about," Barber said. "That's what our sole focus is this year, finding team success and finding ways to get back to the Super Bowl and taking this Giants franchise where it should be, with another Super Bowl champion for Mr. Mara and Mr. Tisch."

Morton on board: For the second straight season, the Giants will begin the year with a brand-new punt returner. This year's lucky winner is Chad Morton, a veteran running back who can return punts and kickoffs.

Morton is beginning his sixth NFL season. The 5-8, 203-pounder has played for New Orleans, the Jets and Washington, where he suffered a knee injury that limited him to six games last season. He was signed by the New England Patriots on June 21, placed on the physically unable to perform list on July 28, and recently released.

In 62 career games (three starts), Morton has 88 rushing attempts for 360 yards (a 4.1-yard average), 48 receptions for 419 yards and a touchdown and averaged 9.0 yards on 79 punts returns and 24.0 yards on 174 kickoff returns. He has returned three kickoffs for touchdowns, including two with the Jets in 2002, when he led the AFC with 1,509 return yards.

"Again, he's a playmaker, a guy that's done it in the past, not only as a punt returner, but as a kickoff returner," Tom Coughlin said. "Also, I think he can play some as the fourth back and be a guy who perhaps would be a third-down back or run from behind a team that's deployed with three or even four wide receivers. I think we pick up a little bit of depth there."

Morton, who played collegiate football at USC, was a fifth-round draft choice of the New Orleans Saints in 2000 (the 166th overall pick). He was traded to the Jets following his rookie season, then signed with the Redskins on March 6, 2003, then was awarded to the team on April 8 when an arbitrator ruled the Jets did not match the offer sheet. Washington released him on June 3 of this year.

"I'm ready to go," Morton said. "I'm very excited to be here and looking forward to the opportunity to play with a good organization."

For the record: To say it's extremely tough trying to get salary cap numbers out of the Giants would be an understatement. But TGI came through. As of the beginning of September, the Giants were $2.05 million under the cap.

Sticky fingers? Think we all make too much of New York's inability to intercept the ball? Think again. The Giants' 50 INTs since 2001 are by far the worst four-year total in team history. Of course the Giants then went out and led the entire league with eight picks during the preseason.

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