Inside Slant, Notes, Quotes and Injuries

Last season, the Giants sent running back Tiki Barber to the Pro Bowl as their only representative. This year, they're sending him again - along with four other players to keep him company.

The total of five is the most the Giants have had elected to the season-ending All-Star game since they sent seven in 1990, following their last Super Bowl victory.

Along with Barber, who has already rushed for 1,577 yards this season, the Giants will send both starting defensive ends - Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora - to the game, as well as tight end Jeremy Shockey (his third trip) and special teams ace David Tyree. The Giants haven't had a special teams player chosen since 1990, when Reyna Thompson was elected.

"With team success comes individual recognition," coach Tom Coughlin said. "That being in mind, I was pleased to announce to the team our Pro Bowl players and alternates. Being selected by your peers is a heck of an accomplishment, I don't care what alternate (position) they find themselves in."

There were seven Giants chosen as alternates - middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, place-kicker Jay Feely, punt returner Chad Morton (first alternates), punter Jeff Feagles (second), quarterback Eli Manning, wide receiver Plaxico Burress, center Shaun O'Hara (third) and guard Chris Snee (fourth).

"Frankly, I am more pleased and excited for Osi than I am for myself," said Strahan, who will be playing in his seventh Pro Bowl. "This is his first, and he worked so hard and had such a sensational year that it's nice to see other people recognize that, too."

All the players, however, preferred to dwell on the Giants' game against the Redskins this Saturday.

"We still have some unfinished business," said Shockey, alluding to the fact that the Giants can clinch the NFC East by winning. They are 10-4 and the Redskins are 8-6 and riding a three-game winning streak that immediately followed a three-game losing streak.

"We know what's important here," Shockey said. "The Pro Bowl is nice, but we have a few more games to win first."

Strahan smiled broadly when asked about the chance to clinch.

"It's what we worked so hard for to put ourselves in this position," he said. "It is up to us to finish it now. That's what the coach has talked about all season, finishing. We are off to a good start but nothing is finished yet. Saturday we can finish the first goal."

And they can do it with five Pro Bowl selections, too.

SERIES HISTORY: 146th meeting. Giants hold a commanding 82-59-4 lead. The earlier game this season resulted in a 36-0 shutout of the Redskins as RB Tiki Barber ran for 206 yards. It was five days after the death of Giants co-owner Wellington Mara at the age of 89.

NOTES, QUOTES

--MLB Antonio Pierce (high ankle sprain) had the boot removed from his foot but the cast is still in place. He will not play Saturday against his old team, the Redskins, something he dearly wanted to do.

--DE Osi Umenyiora was stunned that he made the Pro Bowl. "I figured Michael (Strahan) would go," he said, "but I never thought they'd pick two from the same team. It is a definite honor. I don't even know what to say for sure. I'm just tremendously honored."

--MLB Roman Phifer, signed Monday by the Giants after spending the season out of football, said he was hoping for another chance. "I watched two or three Giants games," he said, "and thought that this is a young, promising team with a chance to do something special. When the Giants called, it didn't take much to convince me. The phone call was enough."

--OL David Diehl, who filled in at right tackle for Kareem McKenzie last week, appears to be heading back to his normal position of left guard this week. "It doesn't matter where I play," he said. "Just two things matter - that I play somewhere and that we win this game."

--QB Tim Hasselbeck, who hasn't thrown a single pass this season behind Eli Manning, might get some work in the finale against Oakland Dec. 31, but only if the Giants have clinched the NFC East. "I'm here and I'm ready," he says. "I knew the situation when I signed on last spring."

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 - Pro Bowl appearances for Giants TE Jeremy Shockey in his four years. The previous high-water mark for Giants TEs was two, by Mark Bavaro.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Who's going to coach the NFC team in the Pro Bowl? The losing coach from the championship game? Oh, then I guess that's Mike Holmgren (Seattle). Tom Coughlin will be too busy." - One of the Giants, who asked that his name not be used.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

Left tackle Luke Petitgout practiced and was pronounced ready to play Saturday in Washington, where the Giants will attempt to not only beat the Redskins but clinch the NFC East championship as well.

Petitgout left in the first quarter of the Eagles' game two weeks ago with a sprained back, and missed all of last Saturday's 27-17 victory over Kansas City. But now he appears to be ready. The spasms have subsided and, according to coach Tom Coughlin, "he's moving freely."

This might put yet another wrinkle on the Giants' offensive line. Last week, with Petitgout unavailable, veteran Bob Whitfield played left tackle and left guard David Diehl moved over to right tackle.

The right tackle, Kareem McKenzie, suffered a pulled hamstring against the Eagles and also missed last week. He has not yet been given the go-ahead to play and is listed as questionable. If he doesn't make it, the suspicion is that Diehl will return to his left guard position and Whitfield will move over to right tackle.

"I think Luke will be ready," Coughlin said. "He has practiced every day this week. He took the majority of the snaps, too. He says he feels good."

One must assume Petitgout will play. If McKenzie doesn't make it, then at least the Giants will have the benefit of Whitfield's experience and 6-6, 325-pound bulk, with guard Rich Seubert, who started last Saturday in his first action since Oct. 19, 2003, waiting in reserve.

"Last year, the offensive line was a weak spot for us," running back Tiki Barber said, "but now, I would say it's one of our strong points."

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--MLB Roman Phifer, signed Monday as an emergency fill-in for the injuries that are mounting in the LB corps, practiced Wednesday but not Thursday. "He was a little sore," said Coughlin. "He hasn't played in almost a full season." Phifer was released by New England, where he won three Super Bowl rings in four years, on Feb. 28, 2005.

--Something of a dilemma for the Giants would be the unavailability of FB Jimmy Finn (ankle, questionable). There is no other FB on the roster and the replacement might have to be rookie RB Brandon Jacobs, 6-4 and 265 but still a work-in-progress in terms of blocking. That might result in the more frequent use of an H-back, probably backup TE Visanthe Shiancoe.

--SLB Carlos Emmons (strained pectoral muscle) did not practice Wednesday and is listed as doubtful for Saturday. His listed backup is Reggie Torbor, who is questionable with a pulled calf muscle. That might put the load on bench-rider Alonzo Jackson. It is felt that Torbor, who did practice, will make it.

--RB Tiki Barber, with 1,577 rushing yards, is second in the NFL behind Seattle's Shaun Alexander, who has 1,668. While Alexander has three times the amount of rushing touchdowns (24 to Barber's eight) he is only 91 yards ahead in yardage. No Giant has ever led the NFL in rushing.

--SS Gibril Wilson is the only SS on the roster, meaning that his replacement will come from the CB ranks (probably veteran Terrell Buckley) or FS James Butler, a rookie free agent. Wilson is tied for the team lead in tackles with 98 (MLB Antonio Pierce is the co-leader), and he should take the lead now with Pierce not available Saturday.

--RB Tiki Barber leads the NFL in total yards from scrimmage (1,998) based on his 1,577 rushing and 421 receiving. He also has 10 TDs (eight rushing, two receiving).

GAME PLAN: It may be oversimplified, but if the Giants can shut down Redskins' RB Clinton Portis (1,296 yards) there isn't much left to worry about in terms of offense. QB Mark Brunell has had an average year at best and the receivers are part of a system that feeds off the running game. WR Santana Moss has 75 receptions for 1,240 yards and six TDs, while H-back/TE Chris Cooley has 64 catches for 725 yards and six TDs.

Still, if Portis can be slowed down, the Giants should have far less trouble handling the Redskins' offense.

Offensively, they will try to move the ball with RB Tiki Barber (1,577 yards, 220 last week vs. Kansas City), and they'll do it with a patchwork offensive line that might get LT Luke Petitgout (back) to return but likely will still be without RT Kareem McKenzie. QB Eli Manning can take advantage of the Washington secondary, especially if he focuses on WR Plaxico Burress working against CB Carlos Rogers (questionable, biceps). SS Ryan Clark, once a Giant, can't handle TE Jeremy Shockey by himself.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

--Just like old times, it will be LDE Michael Strahan of the Giants working against RT Jon Jansen of the Redskins. He has not experienced difficulty with that matchup, and usually the Redskins provide support help with the LG. But in this case, the regular LG (Randy Thomas) is out, backed up by 43-year-old, 20-year veteran Ray Brown.

--Giants MLB Chase Blackburn will get a first-person view of RB Clinton Portis, and how he performs should be one of the defensive keys. He did well vs. KC's Larry Johnson last week, but Portis is quicker.

--Giants TE Jeremy Shockey, 6-5 and 255, will go deep down the middle and draw attention from MLB Lemar Marshall and SS Ryan Clark. If that works, Shockey becomes a leading receiver. If they shut him down, the running game up with middle will work easier.

INJURY IMPACT:

--MLB Antonio Pierce had the cast removed from his high ankle sprain, only to have a new one put on. According to reports, he might not be ready until the second round of the playoffs, if the Giants make it that far.

--RDT William Joseph (ankle) did not practice Thursday and it is beginning to look as though he'll miss his second game in a row.

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