A Conversation with Amani Toomer

For all those seeking reasons why Eli Manning and the Giants offense hit the skids around midseason, look no further. The loss of veteran, dependable receiver Amani Toomer was by far the biggest factor in the Giants offensive slump.

Toomer, the all-time leading receiver in Giants history, underwent season-ending surgery to repair his knee the week before the Chicago game when the Giants were 6-2 and the offense was humming along. However, he's ahead of schedule and anxious to rejoin his teammates in time for training camp. Here's what Toomer had to say just before the Giants headed down to Philadelphia for their wild card showdown with the Eagles.

Q: First off, how are you feeling?

A: I'm coming along well. I'm ahead of schedule and should be running in the next couple weeks (by the end of January). I'm trying to rush it as best I can but I'm trying to be smart about it. I want the leg to be stronger and I don't want to hurt the joint any. The joint looked pretty good when they went in so we want to keep it looking good.

Q: How did the surgery go?

A: I think it was pretty much what they expected. They knew it was torn, but I think there might have been a little less of the ACL than they thought.

Q: So there was really no question that you needed surgery, right?

A: Yeah, no doubt. I don't even know where the idea came from that I even had a decision to make. I feel like I still have a lot to prove in the league and a lot to accomplish, personally and with the team. But I didn't think there was a decision really even to be made. Either I keep playing and this would have been my last year or get the work done and keep on going with my career.

Q: Do you think a new and improved knee might actually help you?

A: You never know. I did the other leg and it held up a good long time and was stronger than my other one. I'm pretty excited about what the future's going to bring.

Q: What was the toughest part about being sidelined?

A: I think the toughest point was watching the games during that four-game losing streak. The Tennessee game was tough. The Chicago game was really tough. The Jacksonville game; you know all the games that I felt I could have played a big role in changing the tide of the game and putting more points on the board.

Q: How tough it is having to sit back and watch your club in the playoffs?

A: Especially Philly. I love going to Philly; I've had a lot of good games against them. I've always loved it and done pretty well against them in the past. That's one of the games I always look forward to so this was definitely a game I would have been very excited about.

Q: So then it was no coincidence that the offense struggled after you went down?

A: I don't really know. I think I obviously add a dimension to the game and I made a lot of big plays. When you lose one of the key players on offense, it's kind of to be expected. I was surprised that people seemed to think it was like ho-hum, like it wouldn't make a difference. That was a little frustrating.

Q: But it seems that people do feel that way. Why is that?

A: I have no idea. One thing that's helped me throughout my career is that I never listened to what people were saying about me. First of all, half the people that are saying stuff about you aren't even qualified to be saying anything. It's just like anybody in a bar room or any Monday morning quarterback, but just give them a pen and a paper. And I'm not bashing anybody; it's their job. But it just comes down to who's saying it. If the people upstairs or other teams were saying stuff that would be different. But when people who aren't even really in the mix of the league, those opinions don't really matter or affect you as much.

Q: How have your teammates reacted to losing you?

A: I think a lot of people are disappointed, including myself, that I got injured this year. It wasn't anything like I didn't work out enough; it wasn't one of those things. It was just that I ended up taking a blow directly to it.

Q: What have you seen from Eli Manning this year?

A: I really don't like getting into saying bad things about him. I've seen a lot of progress from him. I think he's growing up as a quarterback. When you play football, you're going to go through ups and downs and all kinds of different things. You have to find a way to stay in the middle or constantly be ascending while not letting anyone's opinions affect you. I think he's learning that. I think he's learning that he has to handle things the right way, which he has. He's not pointing fingers at anybody or saying that it's everybody else's fault like some other quarterbacks do. You can respect that. He understands that when things are going well it's not all because of him and that when things aren't going well, it's not all his fault. There's a whole team behind it.

Q: Does he have the right temperament and fire to succeed on a regular basis?

A: I think temperament and all that stuff is a lot overrated. The fact of the matter is can he throw the ball, can he make the reads and can he make the plays. That's it. I think a lot of people think he has to be like his brother, he has to be like Tom Brady, other quarterbacks that go crazy on the sideline. He's him. The Giants knew what kind of personality he had when they drafted him. If he were to try to be somebody else or try to change now it would be phony and everyone in the locker room would see him as a fraud.

Q: When you do think you'll be back to full speed?

A: Probably not until training camp. I just don't want to rush it. I want to be able to get a good couple months under me of just rehabbing, working and getting my conditioning in. Then I can think about going back to playing again.

Q: What should we expect to see from you in training camp?

A: The same old thing. That's one thing I can always get up for and really enjoy. I don't know why. I enjoy practicing. I'll probably do less and do what Will Demps did and probably only practice once a day. By the middle of training camp, that's when I think I'll be the healthiest and most ready to compete. By the season I'll definitely be ready.

Q: Do you have any doubts that you'll be able to return to your previous level of play?

A: No, I really don't. I've done it before. That definitely does help. Because I can look back at last time and see what things I could have done better. I know I have to do a lot more running this time than I did last time in my second year.

Q: Any good offseason plans?

A: No, this is just a back-to-business offseason. You can do all the fun stuff when you're healthy. But when you're injured, and the team is counting on you for the next season, you have to do it for the team.

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