Offseason Program Notebook

When you're Eli Manning, nothing you do flies under the radar, let alone getting engaged.

Manning popped the question and presented a diamond ring on March 20 to Abby McGrew, his girlfriend of the last five years. They met when Manning and McGrew were students at the University of Mississippi. Manning said no wedding date has been set, though it will likely take place following the 2007 season.

"It's exciting," Manning said. "We've been together for a long time. We're taking the next step, and it's an exciting time in both our lives."

Manning said most of the ring-shopping was done on his own but that he did enlist "a little motherly advice."

McGrew grew up in Nashville and now lives in Manhattan, where she is an account executive for Pamela Roland, a designer of evening wear and wedding dresses.

Just as importantly for Manning, McGrew is developing into a football fan.

"She's learning," he said. "She's been dealing with it for a while. I don't know if she would watch it if I wasn't playing. She understands it."

Getting engaged wasn't the only good offseason news for Manning. The Giants displayed their faith in Manning by exercising a contract option that will keep 2004's top overall draft pick with Big Blue through the 2009 season.

But can he reel in Jeremy and Plax?

Most Giants fans are more concerned with Manning's ability to engage tight end Jeremy Shockey and receiver Plaxico Burress into joining him for New York's offseason workout program.

"I talked to both of them," Manning said. "I told them that I won't start throwing until mid-April and that that's when I'd like (them) here."

Manning seemed somewhat confident that he can put an end to the annual controversy, which rankles head coach Tom Coughlin, Manning and Giants fans everywhere.

"I hope they're here," Manning said. "Hopefully I can convince them."

The Real Diehl to replace Luke?

While everyone fully expects David Diehl to take over at left tackle in place of the departed Luke Petitgout, Diehl said that he's yet to receive any kind of direction regarding his position for the upcoming season.

"Nothing's been said to me yet," Diehl said. "I'm just preparing hard. If they did tell me it'd be great. But it's hard to have a preference when in five years I've been at four different positions."

"He'll be a good left tackle," RT Kareem McKenzie said. "I'm sure he can play any spot because that's what he did the last two years."

Bygones are by gones.

Second-year receiver Sinorice Moss is healthy and ready to go. As a result, he sees no reason at all to dwell on last year's injury-riddled disappointing rookie campaign.

"I feel real good," Moss said. "I'm keeping a positive attitude and not worrying about last year. I can't gain anything from it."

Moss, who was limited to only five catches in six games, is still as confident as ever. "As long as I can continue to keep working hard, I only see things going further from here," Moss said.

Moss vacationed with his brother, Redskins receiver Santana, in the Dominican Republic this offseason and also spent time with his three-month-old son.

Movin' on up

There were several notable locker changes. Reserve safety Jason Bell moved into Tiki Barber's vacated dressing space while Gibril Wilson took over the locker of former media hound LaVar Arrington. Also, Brandon Jacobs moved into Carlos Emmons' spot and Jeff Feagles inherited Luke Petitgout's changing station.

For starters

The offseason program officially opened on March 19. Center Shaun O'Hara, for one, was excited to get back to work.

"The first week is kind of fun, because you see guys you haven't seen in a while," O'Hara said. "By week two we're tired of each other already. It's fun to get back after we've been away from each other for a few months. It's kind of like coming back to school after winter break. You get to see everybody. At the same time for me, it kind of signals the start of the new season. This is the first time that we can really get together and start thinking about the ‘07 season, working together toward improving on last year."

Getting his kicks

With Jay Feely gone to the Dolphins, the Giants only have one kicker on the roster – former Ohio State booter Josh Huston.

Huston, known for his strong leg, immediately swatted away a query regarding his lack of accuracy on shorter field goals.

"I only missed one inside 44 (yards) last year and that one was blocked," he said.

So far, he's fared very well, having hit 25 of his first 27 attempts, with both misses clanging off the upright.

"Coach Coughlin told me that 22-of-28 wasn't good enough," Huston explained of his college stats. "He said I have to hit 26-of-28. I've got one more to make."

Huston, who signed with the Giants on Jan. 1, knows that he'll have competition come training camp. But he also knows that the level of competition will result from how he fares in the next few months.

"If they go out and spend a lot of money (on a kicker), I'm screwed," he laughed.

Chief Osi

Defensive end Osi Umenyiora was made a chief in the Nigerian village of Okbunike during a recent visit. Umenyiora, who spent the first seven years of his life in London, lived with his family in Nigeria from age 7 to 14.

"It was cool," he said. "There were a series of rituals that I had to perform. It was a good thing."

Umenyiora was asked what he gets to do as a chief.

"I have my constituents," he said. "Mostly quarterbacks around here. You can call me chief of quarterbacks around here."


On a more serious note, Mathias Kiwanuka spent three-and-a-half weeks in his native Uganda. On a trip with his mother and grandfather, Kiwi traveled around the nation trying to determine which relief organization to which he would donate money.

Kiwanuka's late grandfather, Benedicto Kiwanuka, was elected Uganda's first prime minister in 1961 and was assassinated in 1972 by Idi Amin.

"It's not as bad as it once was," Kiwanuka said. "But it's still pretty bad. It really makes you appreciate what we have here in the U.S."

Champin' at the bit

Brandon Jacobs said he is excited about assuming the workhorse running back role from the recently-retired Tiki Barber.

"I can't wait, to be honest with you," Jacobs said. "This is something I've been waiting for all my life, to be the guy. My role is changing a bunch. I'm working a lot harder to be that type of runner."

However, Jacobs said no matter how well he does, he'll still have to deal with people questioning his ability.

"I could come out and run for two million yards and there still would be doubters," he said.

Now that would be a record.

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