Much too soon

Where there's a Will, there's a way. Well, maybe not. Cornerback Will Allen would like to play a sixth season for the Giants, but the former Syracuse standout will be an unrestricted free agent in the coming months and realizes he might've played his last game for the team against Carolina.

"I've been here," Allen said. "I enjoy it. My family likes it here. There's nothing bad or anything I could say about this place. So obviously I would not want to leave here. … Everyone's asking me the same question. Of course I would like to be back here."

Redskins receiver Santana Moss annihilated Allen, beating the five-year veteran for three touchdowns during Washington's 35-20 victory over the Giants on Christmas Eve. And Allen still couldn't catch an interception if his career depended on it. But Allen actually played pretty well throughout the 2005 season, in which he defended 11 passes, made 62 total tackles and was aggressive against the run.

His production wasn't enough to make general manager Ernie Accorsi attempt to sign Allen to a long-term contract during the season. But Allen said he tried not to read into the Giants' patient approach. Nor did he get dejected when the team signed Will Peterson – a third-round pick in 2001, the year the Giants acquired Allen in the first round – to a five-year, $30 million contract extension prior to the 2004 season.

"I'm not discouraged about anything," Allen said. "Whatever happens, happens. I've always been like that.

"There's nothing to make of (not getting an offer yet). I'm not trying to make anything of it. I think when you try to make something out of that, you create stressful situations for yourself. And there's no need to do that."

Though his departure might've seemed like a foregone conclusion this time last year, the Giants might need Allen to return. A back injury has jeopardized Peterson's career and rookie Corey Webster struggled when he finally beat out Curtis Deloatch to start opposite Allen late in the season. So unless they're willing to commit major money to a more accomplished corner, the 27-year-old Allen could be a reasonably priced, long-term solution at a position at which the Giants don't have much reliable depth.

"I don't know (how much they need me)," Allen said. "That's a question you have to ask them."

Strahan hopes Lewis leaves

Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis hadn't been hired as a head coach as of press time for this issue, but he was widely viewed as a hot commodity among NFL executives. The 44-year-old Lewis interviewed for vacancies in Green Bay, Houston and St. Louis at a New York City hotel the day after the Giants' season ended. Lewis was fired by Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher after the 2003 season, but has rapidly repaired his reputation during two seasons with the Giants.

"He's going to be a great head coach," LDE Michael Strahan said. "I would really be shocked if he doesn't get a job somewhere. I think he's done very well with this unit. He's made it exciting, made me want to go out there and play like I was young again. Trust me, that takes a lot. So I'm proud to play for Tim, and you know what? Unselfishly, I hope I'm not playing for him next year."

Will they call Clancy again?

If Lewis leaves, it could impact the future of Kendrick Clancy, who Lewis recommended before this season based on how he played as backup for Lewis with Pittsburgh. Clancy was one of the Giants' most pleasant surprises in 2005, when the career-long reserve capitalized on the opportunity to start 15 games at left defensive tackle. Clancy is considered short for an NFL lineman, but the 6-foot-1, 305-pound former Mississippi standout proved to be a rugged run stuffer (39 total tackles) who showed some improvement as a pass-rusher by the end of the season.

"I think I showed them that I'm a solid player, that I have great upside," said Clancy, who signed a one-year deal with the Giants after the 2004 season. "I got a chance to play. I felt like a sixth-year rookie. I never played (in Pittsburgh). I was sitting on the bench for five years. I feel like I could play 10 more years. My body doesn't have any wear on it."

Clancy recorded only 30 total tackles in his first five seasons in the league, all with Pittsburgh, which drafted him in the third round in 2000. So while he seeks some security, he is also looking forward to some down time with his family in Oxford, Miss.

"I'm so tired," Clancy said. "I just want to go home and see my kids. … I hope (the Giants) want me back. I want to be back, but this is the NFL and you never know how it's going to work out."

The end zone: notes & quotes

RB Tiki Barber's body has withstood the perennial pounding it has taken the last four seasons, but he said he wouldn't play more than three more years, no matter how much success he has. "Every year," Barber said, "it's, ‘Can I do it again?' You never know." The Pro Bowler will be especially pressed to duplicate his 2005 production during his 10th season. Barber was the first RB in NFL history to register more than 1,800 rushing yards (1,860) and 500 receiving yards (530) in the same season. … C Shaun O'Hara acknowledged that the Giants' offensive players were stunned during their shutout loss to the Panthers. "I think there was a little bit of a shock factor," O'Hara said. "We hadn't struggled like that all year long." He doesn't think, though, that the poor performance will be the lasting impression the unit takes away from a season in which the Giants finished third in the league in scoring. "I'm looking forward to our offense coming back with an attitude and an identity," O'Hara said. "I don't think that's something we had coming into this season." … The Giants will begin their offseason conditioning program on March 20. … The sons of two former Giants will participate in the annual NFL Scouting Combine next month in Indianapolis and are considered prospects for the NFL Draft two months later. Bobby Carpenter, an LB out of Ohio State, is the son of Rob Carpenter, a Giants RB from 1981-85. Ryan Neill, a DE out of Rutgers, is the son of Bill Neill, a Giants DT from 1981-83. … In addition to home and away games against their three division rivals next season, the 2006 schedule includes home games against Chicago, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, Houston and Indianapolis. Their additional road opponents are Atlanta, Carolina, Jacksonville, Seattle and Tennessee.

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