He had imposed the "competitive advantage" rule, claiming that to publicize his changes would give the 6-0 Vikings an unfair advantage. This is not new nor does it rankle many of the media.
But left tackle Luke Petitgout, the only one along the line who hasn't changed positions (yet) this season, spoke to reporters after practice and affirmed the changes that Fassel and O-line coach Jim McNally had implemented.
He said that right tackle Chris Bober, who was taken out of the center slot after the first game of the season, was moving back to center. He indicated that rookie Wayne Lucier, who had been playing center since Game Two, will move to left guard to replace the injured (broken leg) Rich Seubert. He added that while rookie David Diehl will remain at right guard, it looked like Ian Allen (the starter in the opener) and free agent rookie Jeff Roehl would alternate at right tackle.
Fassel fell short of admitting the changes, but did say: "I know it's unorthodox and unusual, but I just might alternate our five linemen game by game. I think considering the depth problem we have to match up certain guys on certain guys."
Allen started in the first game against St. Louis, after starting all during the preseason, but was abruptly yanked because of "a rough outing" and replaced by Bober, which set in motion the move of Lucier from the bench to the center spot. Now Allen has apparently earned another chance in Fassel's mind.
"Ian will get a second chance," he admitted. "Now he has to show me he can do it in a game, not just in practice."
Allen is the wild card here. He is a huge man, 6-5 and 310, and should be able to hold the position comfortably. "He has all the talent he needs," Fassel has said. "Now he just has to do it."
McNally is a harsh teacher, and after he gave Allen 13 zero scores on 13 plays he marked as crucial, the benching became reality. "I just want to play and show them [the coaches] that I deserve that," Allen said. "I am confident I can do the job."
There is precious little depth along the line, even after Fassel activated center-guard Omar Smith from the practice squad and re-signed tackle Dion Meredith, who had been released last week. Missing in all this is tackle Jeffrey Hatch, who was the team's third round draft pick in 2002 but missed the entire season after spinal surgery in the summer. He hasn't been looked at or given a chance, and odds are he won't last very long — perhaps not even this season — considering the fact that he has not been asked to contribute despite the emergency situation.
Seubert suffered three broken bones in his left leg in the second quarter last week against Philadelphia: the ankle, tibia and fibula. He underwent complicated, three-hour surgery Monday and will be forced to stay off his feet for three months. The entire healing process should take six to eight months.
"He will be all right," Fassel said. "It wasn't a career threatening injury, for which we are very grateful." The 6-5, 300-pound Seubert, along with Petitgout, was considered the team's best offensive lineman.
SERIES HISTORY: This will be the 16th meeting between the Vikings and Giants. Minnesota holds a 9-6 lead. Through an odd quirk in the schedule, this will be the fifth consecutive year the teams will meet and the third in a row in the Metrodome.
Standing out above all the rest of the games in the series was the 2000 NFC Championship game throttling of the Vikings, 41-0, which propelled them to Super Bowl XXXV.
NOTES, QUOTES, ANECDOTES
They have also lost RCB Will Peterson (fractured vertebra) for the season but did not put him on injured reserve, feeling he might be ready for the playoffs — if the 2-4 Giants can right their sinking ship and actually get there.
Strahan leads the Giants with six sacks, has had four (two each) in the last two games and is now at 101.5 for his career, one of only 21 players to have gone past the 100 mark since the record was adopted as official in 1982.
He said that Viking DT Chris Hovan is a factor. "He's so good we have to scheme against him individually as well as the front seven," he noted. One somewhat chilling statistics is that the Vikings started their season 0-5 last year with a minus-10 in takeaway-giveaway and this year, at 6-0, they are at plus-13.
BY THE NUMBERS: 42.3 — The number of pass attempts per game for Giants' QB Kerry Collins; 568 — His team record of attempts set in 2000, and if he follows this 42.3 average per game, he'll finish with 677 (the NFL record was set by New England's Drew Bledsoe in 1994).
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Do I think [Mike] Rosenthal is looking forward to playing against his old teammate [Michael] Strahan? I don't see why he would. Strahan is one of the premiere defensive ends in the league and we won't let him hang out there on an island by himself." — Vikings' head coach Mike Tice.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Giants must find a way to score points. They have gained an average of 352 yards per game and yet have scored only 105 points in their six outings and only 26 in their last three games.
"We haven't thrown much downfield," head coach Jim Fassel admitted. "It has been a combination of things, like the receiver not getting open, the quarterback not seeing him or the protection not being good enough." The latter is the primary reason, of course, and with the constantly changing offensive line, it doesn't figure to get appreciably better any time soon.
Indicative of the paucity of downfield passing is the fact that the team leader in receptions is TE Jeremy Shockey (34 for 322 yards) and third is RB Tiki Barber (25-154). WR Ike Hilliard, used primarily as a possession receiver, is second with 31/317.
GAME PLAN: The Giants will try to run the ball first, despite their potent passing game, because that should open the Vikings' defense a little more to the downfield patterns that have been sadly lacking in the last several games.
They can only hope that Tiki Barber gets the blocking he needs from a shaken-up O-line, and against a strong font four that features a strong inside game with tackles Chris Hovan and Fred Robbins.
Should the running game click, it might be because Fassel agrees to use Dorsey Levens as his backup for Barber. Levens, signed as an UFA last spring, got his first carries of the season last week and gained 64 yards in 16 tries.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Giants' LDE Michael Strahan, who has six sacks this season, two each in the last two games, will go against former teammate Mike Rosenthal, now the Vikings' starting ORT. "Rosey is big, strong, smart and he holds pretty good,"
Strahan laughed. "I mean, he is very strong. I compare him to Jon Jansen [Washington] but he's stronger."
INJURY IMPACT: The loss of LG Rich Seubert (broken leg, out for the season) will hurt immeasurably. The resultant shifting and changing in the personnel will almost certainly result in some confusion, and against a very strong defense that could be lethal.
The previous loss of K Matt Bryan (pulled hamstring) has given a new career opportunity to Brett Conway, and in his defense he has made three of five FGs.