TGI's take: Eli's really the man

For all the heat and criticism Eli Manning has taken since becoming New York's regular starting quarterback in 2005, he now deserves at least that much credit for how he stood up to Tiki Barber's recent verbal barbs.

Barber was hardly the first to question Manning's mental makeup and leadership, although certainly the most prominent. But Manning fired right back, questioning Barber's heart and dedication while announcing his intentions to retire early last season.

Barber, of course, believed Manning's reply to be "offensive," adding, "I have never, ever, ever not left 100 percent of myself on the football field."

However, instead of continuing the war of words, Manning took the high road, clearly winning both battles of this war.

"I'm fine talking with Tiki," he said. "If I see him, I'll talk to him. I'll be friendly to him. I'm not trying to start something. That's just the deal. It happened. Hopefully when we see each other – and we will – it won't be awkward because I don't want it to be.

"It's a done issue for me. It's over. I don't want to make it into a bigger deal, so I'll end it here."

Manning's aggressive stance not only caught the attention of the fans and media, but his teammates as well.

"Eli is Eli. He doesn't usually mouth off to the media," LB Antonio Pierce said. "But in this case, I think he did a good job of representing the New York Giants."

Manning wasn't surprised that his comments caught most off guard.

"Well, I guess I've always been even-keeled, never really responded back, tried to always make things smooth and easy," he said. "And that's probably the first time I've kind of fired back a little. It's one of those things I felt the need to do. It just came out. I don't know. It was just one of those deals where it seemed like the right thing to do."

There's no question that it was the right thing to do. And Manning deserves all the credit in the world for firing back. As he heads into New York's third preseason game with the Jets this evening, he does so as firmly entrenched as New York's leader as he's ever been.

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