Not So Fast

The Giants have planned Amani Toomer's retirement for some time now. They drafted Tim Carter in the second round four years ago. Then it was Jamaar Taylor, the supposed steal of the '04 draft, and Sinorice Moss out of the second round in April.

If they weren't drafted to replace Toomer, they were certainly added with the idea that Toomer would be slowing down soon. No blaming the Giants. Let's face it, there were times last season when many wondered how many games Toomer had left. Eli Manning seemed to go whole games without looking in Toomer's direction. The logical conclusion was that either: A) Manning couldn't resist the matchups presented by Plaxico Burress; or B) Toomer couldn't get open.

He wound up with 60 catches for 684 yards. That was coming off a 2004 season that included 51 catches and, for the first time since his rookie year, no touchdowns. Toomer has had consecutive sub-800 yard seasons after exceeding 1,000 yards in receptions five straight years.

But Toomer obviously hasn't gotten the retirement memo. He had 17 catches the first two games, including a team-record 12 receptions in his electric performance at Philadelphia. Toomer needed to be helped off the field with cramps when it was over. He baby-stepped into the locker room from the trainer's room after absorbing four IV bags.

"It's important to me,'' Toomer said of his production. "I feel I can still do things that I could. When I do it out on the field, I prove it.''

A lot of us thought Toomer was done after the 2004 season. But there were extenuating circumstances to his lack of production. He had a nasty hamstring injury much of the season. His battery mate went from the veteran, Kurt Warner, to the rookie, Manning, after nine games. Manning was generally lost.

Then Toomer opened last season by having his streak of 98 straight games with at least one catch snapped. He rebounded to make a bunch of clutch receptions, including the game-winner against Denver. He showed signs that he had something left in the tank. He's shown more signs already this season.

Receivers get labeled probably more than players at any position. They are either speedsters or possession receivers. The speedsters are presumed to have lost a step the day they hit 30. The possession guys are presumed to be worn down around the same age because of their inability to outrun hits.

Jerry Rice caught about 50 touchdowns after he was supposed to have lost a step or two. It's because he continued running perfect routes, outsmarting defenders and catching everything in his area code.

Toomer, who just turned 32, is that kind of player. His hands are softer than margarine atop a hot stove. His footwork is artwork, his route-running precise. And guess what? He still gets open.

There will be plenty of footballs to go around as Manning continues to mature. Toomer's resurgence will make Burress and Jeremy Shockey, if he can stay healthy, even more effective.

Nobody is taking over for Toomer just yet. Taylor retired after one season. Carter has started to make plays but remains an injury-report regular. Moss has been hurt almost since draft day.

Toomer? He just does his thing, minus the flash, the speed, the talk. Now there's one more thing you can subtract from Toomer: his critics.

MOSS GROWING OLD

Maybe there's some kind of voodoo placed upon young Giants receivers. Moss represents the third Big Blue wideout in four years to start his career with a lingering injury. Taylor went from the draft board to the trainer's room to the retirement list. Carter just now is playing with some consistency after a slew of injuries.

Now Moss, having re-injured his quad muscle, is on his way to turning his first season into a total waste. And how Tom Coughlin raved about his new speedster following the draft. Moss was going to give the Giants that burner they've been yearning for years.

So far he's only given Coughlin the same thing he gets from the media: a headache.

SPEAKING OF INJURIES...

Coughlin has only himself to blame if he continues to rush Jeremy Shockey onto the field and Shockey winds up limping into December.

Shockey's injured ankle clearly left him no better than 75 percent for the Eagles game. Yet he played and, not surprisingly, had two measly catches for 17 yards amid the team's offensive bonanza.

There's a fine line between giving injured players a much-needed nudge and pushing them off the stretcher. Playing hurt is an NFL credo. But some injuries can get healed with a week or two break. Shockey's ankle sprain would seem to be one of those injuries.

There was no better time to rest Shockey than for the Seattle game. It preceded the bye week, giving Shockey at least two full weeks to recover. Yet Coughlin talked early in the week like Shockey would be able to go. Sure he would, at three-quarters effectiveness.

The Giants hardly turn into the Tennessee Titans without Shockey tearing it up. Leading up to the Seattle game, the Giants were 5-1 in their last six games in which Shockey had fewer than three receptions or didn't play. Giving Shockey an extra week off at this point in the season was an attractive risk-reward proposition considering he will be needed at full health later in the year.

BLAME THEM, NOT ME

Coughlin has started to take exception to his team being labeled undisciplined. Too bad. That's exactly what the Giants were in their first two games.

How else to describe a team that committed 19 penalties its first two games after finishing third in the NFL in that category last season? How else to describe three of your players trying to beat up the opposing kicker, as Brandon Jacobs, Antonio Pierce and Luke Petitgout did when David Akers knocked into a Giants assistant on the sideline during the Eagles game? How else to describe your star receiver, Burress, getting into it with Petitgout during the same game?

The "undisciplined'' label hits home with Coughlin because such play is largely tied to coaching. Of course, ask Coughlin about the penalties or the blown coverages or any other flaw and the answer will go something like this: We have practiced against that repeatedly. It's not my fault if these guys don't grasp what we're teaching.

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