Sat, Nov 20, 2004 - Page 20 News List

Jets' Eli Manning to battle Falcons

NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY

Eli Manning insisted Thursday he would not try to establish his legacy in three hours. He knows that when he starts his first professional game at quarterback for the Giants on Sunday, the speed of the game will be faster than perhaps any he has played in. He also knows the Atlanta Falcons will try to rattle him.

"Obviously, I'm excited about this moment," Manning said.

Then, smiling slightly and nodding at more than 100 reporters and photographers, he added: "I just don't show it as much as ya'll might like."

Manning, who is usually not nervous at all, did not seem to be giving in to nerves this week. During the lunch hour, he wandered into the locker room, picked up his playbook and wandered off to study.

"He's been in the book the whole time he's been the backup," said Jamaar Taylor, a rookie wide receiver.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin said Manning had a good practice Wednesday. Coughlin said Manning had clearly benefited from his time as a backup behind Kurt Warner and would show poise Sunday when the game begins.

When asked if there was anything Manning needed to guard against Sunday, Coughlin said, "He has to guard against Atlanta."

For his part, Manning is only thinking about the game. He said he has not read a newspaper or watched television to gauge the extent of the mania around his first start. His older brother Peyton the Indianapolis Colts quarterback, left only one piece of advice on his answering machine Monday.

"He just said when they call out the offense before the game to go out on the field, just lift your legs up high and don't trip," Eli said. "That would be the worst thing."

"He doesn't have any advice," Eli added. "He said just go out there and have fun."

A large group of Giants players passed a horde of reporters after the morning practice session Thursday, and they smiled and wisecracked about being outnumbered. Manning, straight-faced, walked off later with Warner alongside.

The Giants players mostly seemed amused by the attention given this week to Manning's promotion. They also expressed confidence that Manning is capable of succeeding.

"He was drafted No. 1 for a reason," Giants wide receiver Ike Hilliard said. "The kid can play. He'll be fine."

Coughlin said his biggest challenge this week has been to increase the tempo in practice to replicate the pace of a game. But he cannot ring the practice field with 76,000 people, and the defense was not supposed to clobber Manning during drills.

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