"There is not any doubt in my mind," Jacobs said, "that the running back of the future of the Giants' team is standing right here in front of my locker."
If there is any doubt in the minds of more influential people within the organization, the Giants will sign a veteran running back to compete with Jacobs in training camp. The 6-4, 264-pound power back welcomed the challenge.
"I won't be upset," Jacobs said. "It has been done here before. They tried to get Ron (Dayne) to come in to take Tiki's spot, drafted him in the first round, I think No. 11 overall. Look what happened. So it's my job. I'm not giving it up to some outsider. I've got to fight him (pointing at Derrick Ward). Everyone's forgetting about him. I've got to fight him for it."
Jacobs rushed for 423 yards and nine touchdowns in 2006, but slowed considerably after gaining 54 yards on nine carries during the Giants' unfathomable meltdown in Nashville on Nov. 26. The 2005 fourth-round pick produced just 83 yards in their final four regular season games combined, and carried the ball just twice for eight yards during the Giants' playoff loss at Philadelphia.
He acknowledged that he'd have to prepare differently in the offseason to ready for handling Barber's workload.
"I'm going to do the same training I did last year," Jacobs said, "and I'm going to add a little bit more, so I can adjust my body to do different things.
"It's going to be different. You've got to approach things differently. You've got to come in like you want it. … I know 95 percent of the offense now, and I'm going to get those other five learned and play ball."
Center of retention?
Barber might not want to return, but one of the offensive linemen largely responsible for Barber's 5,040 rushing yards the last three seasons wouldn't rather be anywhere else when the 2007 season starts. Center Shaun O'Hara hopes that he can come to an agreement before March 2. Otherwise, O'Hara, who signed a three-year, $5.4 million contract prior to the 2004 season, will become an unrestricted free agent.
"Obviously, I hope (Jan. 7) wasn't the last time I take off or put on a New York Giant jersey," said O'Hara, a Rutgers alum who initially stuck with Cleveland as an undrafted free agent in 2000. "I've thoroughly enjoyed my three years here and I've never been more proud to call myself part of a team or an organization than I have been with this team. I'm hoping with all my heart that things work out, and that I'll be back here."
The Giants figure to welcome O'Hara back because he has been one of their most consistent offensive linemen during his three seasons here. O'Hara nevertheless realizes that the team has more pressing priorities than handling his contract at the moment, most notably its search for retired general manager Ernie Accorsi's replacement.
The Short of it
Linebacker Brandon Short, the only other Giants starter approaching unrestricted free agency, would also "love" to return. But Short learned in 2004, following the fourth season of his first stint with the Giants, and again after last season, his second with former Giants defensive coordinator John Fox in Carolina, to expect the unexpected. Short was waived by the Panthers in March, and rejoined the Giants when he signed a one-year, $585,000 deal.
"You couldn't have told me at this point last year that I wouldn't have still been a Carolina Panther," Short said. "But for some reason, the salary cap or they want to go in a different direction, that changes. This is a business. … No matter how much you feel like you want to be at a certain place or you might think that place wants you, you're always in jeopardy of being gone."
The former Penn State standout's production during the regular season warrants a return, though. Short showed versatility after Carlos Emmons went down at Seattle in Week 3 with another pectoral injury, taking over at weakside linebacker for the rest of the season, even though he had played most of his career on the strong side. He missed three games with a quadriceps injury and was inactive for the first three games, but still finished with 46 total tackles and two sacks.
Feagles, Feely expect to be back
Jeff Feagles' right knee troubled him late in the season, necessitating the emergency signing of Sean Landeta, but the 40-year-old punter suspects he'll return for a 20th NFL season with the Giants later this year.
"I haven't really decided too much," Feagles said. "I am leaning toward (coming back). I'm healthy and I feel good."
The consistent Feagles finished last in the NFL in yards per punt (40.2), but only one of the league's 32 punters owned a lower yards-per-return average than Feagles' 5.8. Feagles also dropped 27 of his 77 punts inside the 20-yard line of opponents. Only eight punters placed more kicks inside the 20, and seven of them punted more often than Feagles.
Jay Feely, meanwhile, can become an unrestricted free agent because the kicker voided the final season of the three-year contract he signed in 2005 after last season.
"I want to be with a winning team, and I think this is a winning team," Feely said. "My desire is to come back here. I like being in the New York area. I like the opportunity that we have with this team. I think that we can be a championship team. I just think that there are changes and decisions that need to be made to get you to that next level."
Feely drilled 23 of his 27 field goal attempts this season and didn't miss any of his 38 extra point tries, yet needs to be more consistent on kickoffs.
The end zone: notes & quotes
Tiki Barber will play one last game next month, when he and twin brother Ronde Barber will be NFC teammates again for the Pro Bowl. "Sean Payton called me the other day," Tiki Barber said, "and said, ‘If we don't get to the Super Bowl and I'm your coach at the Pro Bowl, I'm going to work your (butt) off. Don't come to practice and the game with a mai tai in your hand.'" Tampa Bay's Ronde Barber was named a starter at cornerback. Tiki Barber is one of the NFC's reserve running backs, behind San Francisco's Frank Gore. The Pro Bowl will be played on a Saturday this year, Feb. 10, at 6 p.m. (ESPN). . . . If his sprained ankle heals in time, TE Jeremy Shockey was the only Giant chosen to join the Barber brothers in Honolulu. Shockey was named an NFC reserve, behind Atlanta's Alge Crumpler. . . . The Giants are scheduled to begin their offseason conditioning program on March 19. . . . The Giants own the 20th overall pick in the NFL Draft on April 28. . . . In addition to their usual home and away games against their three division rivals, Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington next season, the Giants' 2007 schedule includes home games against Green Bay, Minnesota, New England, San Francisco and the Jets. Their other opponents on the road are Atlanta, Buffalo, Chicago, Detroit and Miami.
Baggy Day Notebook: Jacobs Vows to be The Man
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