Inside Slant, Battles, Quotes, Injuries, Pers

The ongoing discussion involving strongside linebacker Carlos Emmons and the Giants has taken a new turn. On Tuesday, the Giants placed the 10-year veteran on injured reserve with a sprained pectoral muscle. The move disqualified him not only from Saturday night's season finale against Oakland but also from any playoff appearances, and he vented his anger and displeasure to the media.

He claimed, among other things, that the Giants didn't tell him he was going to be placed on IR until Tuesday morning, but that "the new guy," who turned out to be seven-year veteran Jay Foreman, had been flown in the day before and was already in meetings.

Emmons said that his injury was healing, that while he probably couldn't play against Oakland, he would be able to answer the bell for the first playoff game the next weekend. He also said that he rushed back from the same injury earlier in the season "for the reason that the team needed me," and that there was a risk then of tearing the muscle and requiring surgery.

"They let me play," he said, "and if there was a risk then that they shrugged off, why is the risk so important now?"

Sources close to the team indicated that the decision was made for two viable reasons.

Emmons, in the estimation of the coaches, had not been playing particularly well, and with the injury still a factor, he was an iffy proposition.

Also, the injury could result in a tear on any play, and if that occurred, the Giants would be minus one roster spot since changes cannot be made in the postseason.

So they decided that it was better to bring in a healthy linebacker than to take a chance on losing one for the playoffs who hadn't been playing that well anyway.

It makes sense, and at the same time it indicates the cold-blooded nature of the big business that is the NFL.

At this point, since Emmons criticized the team in public and impugned coach Tom Coughlin (which is never allowed), it was also suggested that his return next season might be questionable at best.

Yet another suspicion, not voiced by any team official or player, is that this was payback for the morning of Dec. 15, when the Giants were to play Kansas City, when Emmons walked into the locker room at 10 a.m., saying his pectoral muscle had been re-injured in practice during the week and that he did not feel comfortable playing that day.

No comment or response was received from anyone in charge, of course, but it is just another indication of an apparently growing unrest among the team's players and the harsh methods employed by Coughlin and the front office.

There has as yet been no comment on a rumor that wide receiver Plaxico Burress, when summoned to gather with the rest of the team by Coughlin, stayed by his locker in the rear of the clubhouse and responded: "I can hear you fine from here."

SERIES HISTORY: The Giants and the Raiders have met only nine previous times, with Oakland holding a 7-2 lead. Oakland has won the last four games. The Giants only victories were back-to-back in 1986 and 1989. The last meeting was a 28-10 Raiders victory in Giants Stadium in 2001.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Linebacker Jay Foreman (6-foot-2, 247 pounds) was signed as a free agent and will see action either from scrimmage or with the special teams. He is the son of former Minnesota Viking Pro Bowl running back Chuck Foreman. He was assigned the locker once used by Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor, and a bronze plaque over the nameplate attests to that. "Pretty good company, isn't it?" he grinned.

--Defensive end Osi Umenyiora on the Giants' road record: "We have struggled every time we've gone on the road, and I don't know what the reason could be. This is our chance to get rid of it for good and just blow them out."

--Rookie Corey Webster is going to start at right cornerback in place of Curtis Deloatch. When asked if this was because Webster has been playing well in a substitute's role or if it had more to do with the fact that Deloatch was struggling, coach Tom Coughlin had a one-word answer: "Both."

--Quarterback Eli Manning on his current performance level: "I am not satisfied with the way I've been playing. Nobody would be. So we have to go out to Oakland and get a win, and I have to play well. My goal is to improve each week and get a win. And no, just making the playoffs is not satisfying. We need to win the division, and winning Saturday will do it."

--Left defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy was a college roommate and teammate of Oakland defensive end Derrick Burgess when both attended the University of Mississippi. "Yeah, we're good friends," he said, smiling. "We talk to each other all the time. I called him last night (Tuesday) and we trash-talked to each other."

--Right defensive tackle William Joseph, who should be able to play after three weeks out with a sprained ankle, is looking forward to the action. "Besides, they (the Raiders) don't have anybody on their team from (the University of) Miami," he said. "So how good can they be?"

--Left defensive end Michael Strahan isn't satisfied yet. "We're in the playoffs, but our goal was to win the division," he said. "We can do that if we beat Oakland on Saturday. We need to move into the playoffs on a winning note."

BY THE NUMBERS: There are nine possibilities (out of 29) that would make the Giants the third seed in the playoffs and thus the host team against the sixth seed (the lesser of the two wild-card entrants). Seven involve a Giants victory over Oakland and two involve a tie between the Giants and Carolina. The Giants hold an insurmountable 10-game lead in strength of schedule, the tiebreaker that would make the Giants the third seed.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Does it feel good? No, man, it's an empty feeling. Thank God for this chance to make it right." - Giants defensive tackle Kendrick Clancy on how he feels about "backing into" a wild-card spot rather than winning the NFC East last week, when the team lost to Washington.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

There will be roster changes aplenty on defense, but coach Tom Coughlin isn't sharing any of that with the public. He has, however, admitted that rookie Corey Webster will start for Curtis Deloatch at right cornerback.

Other changes are expected to be made among the starting linebackers, and even WLB Nick Greisen isn't guaranteed of staying there. He may move to middle linebacker, where both Antonio Pierce and second-teamer Chase Blackburn are out due to injury. That would put Roman Phifer or Jay Foreman at the strong side, with Reggie Torbor the likely starter on the weak side. Rookie Eric Moore and Justin Tuck are also possibilities.

Offensively, the Giants should get RT Kareem McKenzie back after three weeks, putting the offensive line at full strength for the first time during that period. LT Luke Petitgout returned last week, allowing David Diehl to go back to his left guard spot.

PLAYER/PERSONNEL NOTES

--Rookie RCB Corey Webster will start for Curtis Deloatch, who isn't injured but has simply played badly the last two or three weeks. Webster has started one game and played extensively in many others, but now he gets to deal with Raiders WRs Randy Moss and Jerry Porter. "I'm ready," he said. "It has been a few weeks since I last felt like a rookie."

--LCB Will Allen, who has not played well lately and who allowed Redskins' WR Santana Moss to get loose for two long TD catches last week, is the starter for now, but rumors persist that when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in March, the Giants will make only a cursory attempt to re-sign him.

--QB Eli Manning, whose arrival via the draft-day trade with San Diego in 2004 led to the angry demand for a release by QB Kerry Collins, now with the Raiders, says he doesn't really know Collins and has no ill will. "I think he is a very talented player," he said. "He took the Giants to the Super Bowl (2000 season), and I have met him once, as he got off the bus when the Raiders came here (Giants Stadium) to play the Jets. I walked up and shook his hand."

--LB Jay Foreman becomes the third player on the Giants' roster whose father also played in the NFL. He is the son of Minnesota great RB Chuck Foreman; sub QB Tim Hasselbeck is the son of former TE Don Hasselbeck; and LB Barrett Green, currently on injured reserve, is the son of former Giants SS Joe Green.

--RG Chris Snee was exonerated from the holding penalty that cost the Giants a touchdown last week against Washington (it negated a Manning to WR Amani Toomer pass), by none other than his father-in-law (Giants coach Tom Coughlin). "The guy tried a spin move on Chris," Coughlin said. "He slipped and Chris just threw him to the ground. Officials have to learn that when they see a guy on the ground, it isn't always because he was held."

GAME PLAN: The Giants will attempt to get RB Tiki Barber loose against an Oakland defense that ranks 25th in the NFL against the rush. To do this, they'll need to neutralize the middle of the Raiders defense, DTs Ted Washington and Tommy Kelly and MLB Danny Clark. If that works, and if the support corps has to move up to help, then QB Eli Manning can begin throwing passes, many of them to be directed at rookie LCB Fabian Washington. The Raiders will attempt to run the ball, but without RB LaMont Jordan (sprained big toe) that isn't a positive option. QB Kerry Collins has a weapon in WR Randy Moss, and he'll try to isolate him against rookie RCB Corey Webster.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

--Giants LDE Michael Strahan gets the blue-ribbon matchup, going against huge Oakland RT Robert Gallery (6-foot-7, 325 pounds), the second player drafted in 2004 (just after Eli Manning). Gallery is less quick than big, but quicker than most for his size. Strahan, whose weight is down to 255-260 pounds, is exceptionally fast off the snap and wily after 13 years in the league.

--Giants RCB Corey Webster, a second round draft pick this year, will have to find a way to contend with Oakland WR Randy Moss and/or Jerry Porter, two of the NFL's best. Each has 70 receptions for a combined 1,429 yards and seven TDs. But without a running game (if RB LaMont Jordan is out due to a sprained big toe) the Giants defense can afford to double-team and play zone formations all game.

INJURY IMPACT

--TE Jeremy Shockey (ankle) did not practice Thursday, but from all indications he will play Saturday night. "It's getting better day by day," coach Tom Coughlin said.

--MLB Antonio Pierce, WLB Reggie Torbor and TE Jeremy Shockey did not practice Thursday, but RT Kareem McKenzie (hamstring), WR Tim Carter (hip) and DT William Joseph (ankle) did.

Frankly, it's anybody's guess who the Giants' three linebackers will be and where they'll line up. All coach Tom Coughlin will say is that "we have to make some defensive adjustments" in light of the missing players. That list includes SLB Carlos Emmons, Pierce, MLB Chase Blackburn and possibly SLB Reggie Torbor.

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