Sunday brings another homecoming for a former Giant, albeit on a much smaller scale. And that's just how Greg Comella wants it. He's never been one to talk all that much or feel the need to trumpet his ability.
Is he a five-time Pro Bowler like Armstead? Of course not. He's a self-made blocking fullback who works harder than practically any athlete on any level. And yes, he just so happened to have plenty to do with New York's Super Bowl XXXV run a couple years back. By the middle of that magical 2000 campaign, one national publication had named Comella the NFC's top fullback.
Yet there will be no trash-talking, excess chatter or empty promises this Sunday - before, during or after the game. "Of course I'm looking forward to it," Comella said. "I want to play them and hopefully I can let them know what they lost." During last off-season, New York allowed Comella to negotiate his own deal with the Titans, and only offered him a final-hour one-year deal at the league minimum. He headed south.
"I wanted to go somewhere where they'd say that I'd be their fullback for the next three or four years," he said. In Tennessee, just like in New York, things have gotten off to a bit of a slow start for Comella. During his rookie season in 1998, fresh off making the club as an undrafted free agent out of Stanford, Comella finished the year with only one rush and one catch. So far this season, he only has one rush (for no yards), but was on the receiving end of seven passes from Titans QB Steve McNair.
"I just want to continue to get better," said Comella, who missed two games this season with a shoulder injury and was inactive in another. "I just have to work on the things that got me here." Averaging about "10-15 plays a game," Comella knows his main role in Nashville is to serve as an escort for Eddie George. "It's great to work with Eddie," he said. "The guy is tireless. He works really, really hard at everything he does."
A tireless work ethic is what landed Comella in New York in the first place - and what drew he and Tiki Barber to each other. "Greg is in a good situation down there," Barber said. "They like the way he plays. Even though he's missed a few weeks, Eddie's benefited from having him down there."
Comella and Barber struck up a friendship that hasn't waned despite Comella's new address.
"Tiki's still one of my best friends," said Comella, who says he speaks to Barber about once a week. "You only have a couple of those in a lifetime." "I miss him, but we're still very close; I'm looking forward to seeing him," Barber said. "His knowledge he brought of the game. I miss him [as a teammate and friend]. I don't usually hang out with anyone here. I used to hang out with 'Co' a lot. He helped me study and get mentally ready for every game every week. Now I do that by myself. It's changed the way I operate."
It's been quite an adjustment for Comella as well. He and his wife, Erin, have a new baby girl on board and are "enjoying Nashville." "It's fun, we went from 7th and Broadway to the country," he said. "We now have a house and a yard. Everything is on such a small scale here."
That won't be the case when he returns to the Big Apple this weekend. Comella plans to meet up with Barber Saturday night, and also knows that he'll have a lot of family and friends in the stands - and on the field.
"I'm sure there will be a lot of handshakes and hugging before the game," Comella said. "But when the game starts, it's going to be all business. I'm going to be very focused." There's a lot more riding on Sunday's game than just Comella's pride. Both the Giants and Titans are coming off defeats in games that they should have won, and both enter Sunday's match-up with 6-5 records - instead of the 7-4 marks each should boast.
So the storylines Sunday afternoon will be numerous, with Comella returning to his old stomping grounds a mere footnote. But as Comella returns to the scene of his first four NFL seasons, some will wonder and question whether or not he made the right move. He's sure he did.
"Sure, I had really good times in New York," he said. "But I'm very happy with the decision I made." Now he hopes to make the Giants brain trust unhappy regarding the decision they made.
"I'm going to go back there and play my tail off," Comella said. "I just want to let them know that they let one get away."