There are times in many players' careers when they face their old teammates for the first time. This year alone, Robert Ferguson, Ben Leber and Bobby Wade have gone through the experience of facing the team they started their careers against. Last week, the shoe was on the other foot, as Daunte Culpepper made his first start against the Vikings. But this Sunday, it's going to be a bit of a different experience for Visanthe Shiancoe.
For the Vikings' starting tight end, his week began in New York City and will end there as he meets his Giants teammates for the first time. The celebration began Monday when, thanks to an day off following a victory, Shiancoe was able to fly to New York City to celebrate a dual birthday party for former teammates Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora – Umenyiora's birthday was last Friday and Strahan's birthday was Wednesday.
He had a chance to connect with many of his former teammates, with whom he maintains a bond of friendship and light-hearted smack talk. But he knows that all the pleasantries will be left at the door when he steps foot in the visitor's locker room at the Meadowlands for the first time and the fun talk gets a little more serious.
"They're going to be talking trash because we know each other so well," Shiancoe said. "I know little things about them. They know little things about me. It's going to be a war. I'm definitely going to bring my ‘A' game."
At the same time, Shiancoe knows the Giants are looking to make a statement at the expense of the Vikings. New York is one of the few complete teams in the league – able to win games with offense, defense and special teams. He knows how dangerous the Giants defensive end bookend birthday boys can be and he knows they're going to pose some problems for the Vikings offense.
"When you go against the best, you see a lot of different looks," Shiancoe said of the duo that has eight sacks each. "Who's better than them?"
While Shiancoe is quick to praise his former teammates, at the same time, he also spent every day in training camp, minicamps and practices lined up opposite those players and, if they have a kryptonite that can slow them down, if anyone knows about those deficiencies, it is Shiancoe.
And, while he hadn't spoken to Vikings offensive tackles Bryant McKinnie or Ryan Cook about what to look for and what to watch out for, he said that situation was to be rectified post-haste and that he was going to drop dime on both of them.
"I'm going to do that today," Shiancoe said. "I played with (Strahan and Umenyiora) for four years and I know them pretty well. I can give them a lot of tips about them. They watch a lot of film and they go by things the center does or the quarterback does. Hopefully the offense can key in on the things they're doing (to prevent a tip-off)."
Shiancoe had been something of a forgotten man in the Vikings offense for much of the early part of the season, but he has been incorporated more into the passing offense in recent weeks. His 79-yard reception on the opening play of last Sunday's game against the Raiders is clearly something that wasn't lost on his former teammates when watching game film.
As his role in the offense has grown, so has his leadership role on a team loaded with young players – many of whom are playing in the first full NFL season. For those players, this time of year is when rookies and untested players tend to wear down and lose some of their effectiveness. When not giving tips to the offensive linemen about how to frustrate Strahan and Umenyiora, Shiancoe also is looking out for the younger guys and helping them out as the Vikings look to make a strong stretch run in their final six games.
"This is where the rookie wall hits," Shiancoe said. "Anything to help out with that rookie wall (I'll do). It's no joke. This is the time of year when the season ends in college and it's literally double the season (in the NFL). I'll do anything I can do to relax them or get them cool."
While that advice is good for keeping one's body in preparation during the week, when game time rolls around Sunday, Shiancoe fully expects to be bouncing off the walls. For some players, getting too much in a lather at the start of the game can be a hindrance. But Shiancoe says that, while tempering his emotions might be the X's and O's approach to a gametime mindset, he doesn't think that's going to happen in this case. Temper his emotions? That isn't an easy question to answer
"You might have to, but I don't want to," Shaincoe said. "I'm not to temper (my emotions). I'm going to go out there and try to be wired up and geeked up. I don't want to hold back anything. I like to play with a lot of pressure on me."
Head coach Brad Childress said playing with too much emotion can be a bad thing.
"Typically when those guys go back home, and I know he has got a mob of family coming up from Baltimore, you have to have that going-home talk because that can be a mixed blessing with the emotions that flow," Childress said.
Whether there will be pressure on Shiancoe Sunday will depend on several factors. But one thing that is certain is that were will be a lot of eyes from the Giants sideline watching him. And there will be a lot of trash talk going back and forth. While he will be an opponent against the Giants, he still has a lot of players for the G-Men that remain some of his closest friends. For three hours on Sunday, friendships will be suspended and bad intentions will seize the moment.
"I've still got love for them," Shiancoe said. "But I don't know how much love there's going to be on Sunday."
Shiancoe Not Tempering His Homecoming
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