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Giants notebook

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 17, 2001

[AP photo]
New York Giants trainer Ronnie Barnes looks at linebacker Brandon Short, left, Tuesday in New Jersey.

Trainer part of big win

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Ronnie Barnes might be the hardest working man on the Giants.

Seven days a week, roughly 12 hours a day over the past 20 years, Barnes has helped make it possible for Giants to step up and make big plays.

He has been the players' father-confessor, best friend, financial adviser, guidance counselor and one more thing -- their trainer, one of the foremost in sports.

Barnes, 48, is more than that. He is an educator, an author and wealthy enough that he probably doesn't have to work another day if he felt like it. He got his money selling a string of rehabilitation clinics.

He shakes his head at that idea.

"This is what I trained to do, this is what I like," Barnes said in a rare break with the Giants.

Though the average fan might not recognize Barnes, the contributions he and his staff make to the team are invaluable.

Two early plays were the ones to note, passes of 16 and 10 yards to Amani Toomer. Four days earlier, Toomer had to leave practice because the left ankle he sprained against Philadelphia the previous Sunday was killing him.

Toomer, the Giants leading receiver, got almost round-the-clock treatment over the next 24 hours. Heat, electricity, sound, water, exercise and massage all went into the mix, allowing him to play.

DITKA RETRACTION: CBS studio analyst Mike Ditka, who angered coach Jim Fassel by telling viewers in November that "everybody thinks the Giants are soft," changed his tune. "I don't see that there's a more deserving team," to be in Super Bowl XXV, Ditka said. "They're the most balanced team coming out of the NFC."

Ditka said he thought Fassel's approach in attacking the Vikings secondary Sunday "maybe was the best coaching job offensively I've seen all year. ... They saw the weakness, they exploited the weakness and they didn't stop, they kept bombing away. I don't think in an NFC Championship game, a lot of teams would have come out and thrown the ball around like they did."

Because the Giants and Ravens defenses are stifling, the former Bears and Saints coach also said Vegas was wrong in making the Giants 21/2-point underdogs. The teams "are so evenly matched, the game may come down to one play here or there," he said.

PLAYOFF RATINGS: Overnight television ratings for the conference championship game dropped from a year ago. The NFC game between the Giants and Vikings, leading off Sunday's doubleheader, drew a 21.6 rating and 44 share on Fox. A year ago, when Fox had the late game between Tampa Bay and St. Louis, the game produced a 27.9 rating and 46 share. Each ratings point represents 1,022,000 households. Share represents the percentage of television sets in use tuned to the show.

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