When they returned from the West Coast, battered Giants players streamed into the trainer's room, setting off an alarm in Bill Parcells' head. It was one thing to keep winning in spite of injuries, another thing altogether when they could be viewed as an excuse for losing.
So on the Wednesday after the San Francisco game, Parcells told his walking wounded: "You bumps-and-bruises guys, I don't need you three weeks from now, I need you now."
For the coach, it was a necessary exhortation, but one that soon would come back to bite him. That's because on that next Saturday night, the eve of the Giants' game against the Vikings, Parcells began to feel the intense pain of a dislodged kidney stone.
He skipped the regular coaches meeting at the Hamilton Park Hotel in Florham Park, N.J., where the Giants stayed the night before home games, and checked himself into Morristown Memorial Hospital just before midnight.
Parcells was ordered by doctors to remain in the hospital and forget about coaching the game against Minnesota that would have given the Giants, if they won or Philadelphia lost, the NFC East title.
Then the coach remembered what he told the "bumps-and-bruises guys," and his decision was made.
"After you say something like that," Parcells said afterward, "you'd better show up yourself."
With only a handful of Demerol to help him cope with the pain, Parcells arrived at the stadium at 9 a.m. Though he skipped a regular pregame meeting with the officials (he was replaced by assistant coach Ray Handley, this time, not to disastrous results), Parcells made it through the game, which the Giants won, 23-15.
"We were joking about it; we were saying, ‘We need him now, not three weeks from now,'" nose tackle Erik Howard told the New York Times. "Obviously he was in some pain and not himself, but now he had to practice what he preaches."
Parcells returned to Morristown Memorial after the game, where he underwent a procedure to push the stone out of his urinary tract. The next day, he went to the Wood Johnson Stone Center in New Brunswick to have the stone broken up by ultrasound. On Friday, he underwent another procedure to have a urinary stint removed.
He was back on the sidelines for a Saturday game with the Bills. That's the fateful day when Phil Simms injured his foot and would be lost for the season. But thanks to the example provided by Parcells, the Giants were able to overcome the loss of Simms and then Rodney Hampton in the opening-round playoff victory over Chicago, with Jeff Hostetler and Ottis Anderson starring in the Super Bowl.
That second Vince Lombardi Trophy turned Giants Stadium into a latter-day cradle of coaches. Though offensive coordinator Ron Erhardt was the only member of Parcells' staff in 1990 to have had head-coaching experience in the NFL, six more assistants (Handley, Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin, Romeo Crennel, Al Groh and Charlie Weis) have risen to top jobs in the league or in college.
Having so much Xs and Os talent surrounding him enabled Parcells to do what he did best: to cajole and ride each individual player to be the best he could be each week.
"The best way to explain it is he dips his hand into everything." Simms told The Times in the days after the Minnesota game. "This game is so intricate. There's so much that goes on, preparation and work. And it's all translated through Bill."
Although they may have despised him at times, a legion of players known as "Parcells Guys" continue to follow him around the NFL. After sitting out two years following a heart scare, he returned in 1993 in New England. By 1995, he had reunited with no fewer than nine Super Bowl XXV Giants (Bobby Abrams, Matt Bahr, Steve DeOssie, Myron Guyton, Bob Kratch, David Meggett, William Roberts, John Washington and Reyna Thompson).
Curtis Martin was the best of the many Parcells Patriots to follow him to the Jets, and last Sunday, Drew Bledsoe, Terry Glenn and Keyshawn Johnson, Parcells Guys all, led the Cowboys into battle at Giants Stadium in the 2005 NFC East Game of the Year.
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