Hot Topic and Player Notes

Wellington Mara, 89, the President and co-CEO of the New York Giants, died Tuesday after a long battle with cancer. He was 89 years old and had been associated with the team since 1925, when his father, Tim, purchased the franchise for $500. At the time, Tim Mara said, "Anything that is housed in New York City has to be worth $500."

Five years later, when Wellington was 14 and his older brother, Jack, was 19, they were made co-administrators of the team. Wellington immediately gravitated to personnel and on-field duties and Jack, who would become a practicing attorney, took over the business end of the team.

Through the years, Wellington became the patriarch not only of the Giants but the entire NFL, and was influential in making momentous decisions that changed the face of professional football.

In 1959 he openly campaigned for a young public relations man with the Los Angeles Rams to make the astonishing jump to NFL commissioner. It worked out fairly well - the guy was Pete Rozelle.

It was Mara who advocated the sharing of revenue among NFL teams, allowing smaller markets like Green Bay to compete.

But it was his humanity that superseded everything else he did. He paid medical bills for former players. He provided loans, solace and advice. He never turned down a request from a former player, saying, "They are all members of my family. When someone put on a Giants uniform, even once, I felt I owed him that respect."

The last game Mara saw was Sunday's thrilling 24-23 comeback victory over Denver, engineered by young quarterback Eli Manning. It included two fourth-quarter touchdown drives, and the winning points were scored with five seconds remaining.

"I spoke to one of his grandsons right after the game," Manning said, "and he told me that at the end of the game Mr. Mara woke up and saw us win and had a little smile on his face, and then he went back to sleep."

Somehow, that seemed fitting.

Wellington Mara is survived by his wife, Ann, whom he married in 1954. They have 11 children, the oldest of whom, John Kevin Mara, is executive vice president and chief operating officer of the team. Another son, Chris, is the team's vice president of player evaluation; a third, Frank, is director of promotions.

Mara also had 40 grandchildren.

PLAYER NOTES

--QB Eli Manning, trying hard to keep a low profile and a likeable personality, shrugged off his near-miraculous comeback efforts against Denver last Sunday. "It was just two drives," he said, "and just because we got them to work doesn't mean I'm there yet. I have a lot to learn." He completed 14 of 17 passes in the fourth quarter for 114 yards.

--RB Tiki Barber had all the Giants' carries in the game except for one end-around by WR Tim Carter. He carried the ball 19 times for 86 yards and scored a TD.

--WR Amani Toomer, who didn't have a single reception in the season opener to end a 98-game streak of at least one catch, was the receiving hero against Denver. He caught eight passes for 63 yards and the winning 2-yard TD with five seconds remaining. "I am not about individual statistics," he says. "We are winning and scoring more points than this team has scored in a long time, so what is there for me to complain about?"

--WR Plaxico Burress, who wasn't absolutely sure he'd play because of back spasms, did play and had six receptions for 84 yards and a TD. He has 37 receptions in six games for 481 yards and five TDs.

--TE Jeremy Shockey continues to fight his way out of last season's doldrums. He caught just three passes Sunday but one was a crucial 24-yard gain in the final winning drive on third-and-10. "I just don't know how a kid like Eli (who's 24) can be so calm and cool," said Shockey, who is an old man of 25.

--PK Jay Feely still hasn't missed this year. He now has 11 field goals in as many tries and has converted all 20 PAT attempts. "I guess I'm in a groove," he said, "and I hope I never get out of it."

--SLB Carlos Emmons was taken for an MRI exam Monday after perhaps tearing his right pectoral muscle in a diving attempt to tackle Denver's Mike Anderson. He missed, but both outstretched arms were wrenched when Anderson broke through.

--MLB Antonio Pierce leads the Giants with 49 tackles after a season-high 13 against Denver. "We are coming together as a defense," he said. "There were a lot of new faces here this year, including mine." Pierce also has half a sack, seven defensed passes and one interception.

--LCB Will Allen still hasn't managed to get an interception. He has five clear-cut drops in six games. It has been suggested that perhaps he should visit an eye doctor, since a similar situation was cleared up several years ago involving RB Joe Morris. Twice this season Allen has been in position and the ball sailed through his outstretched arms.

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