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No one expected them here
By BOB HARIG, Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 21, 2001
There are precious few who would have predicted the Giants would be arriving in Tampa today to prepare for Super Bowl XXXV. In fact, some oddsmakers had the Giants at 40-1 to win the championship.
"The experts saw last year and last year we were 7-9," cornerback Jason Sehorn said. "Why would you think we were going anywhere? We had a bunch of players that people thought were too old, a quarterback nobody had faith in and a defense that complained too much.
"So why would you expect us to do a lot? But we knew what we did in the off-season to become a better team. That's what changed for us."
BROKEN BARBER: Tiki Barber's broken left forearm has been the subject of nearly daily speculation, and the running back said he felt comfortable enough to return punts for the first time in several weeks.
Barber was injured on Dec. 17 at Dallas, but defensive end Michael Strahan is skeptical, in a joking manner. Strahan had some fun discussing the injury.
"Tiki is really a wimp," Strahan said. "He's milking this whole thing. You guys have bought into that Tiki Barber thing. ... Man, I've seen him do one-armedpush-ups with the bad arm."
But then Strahan was serious about Barber's toughness. "I think if he broke the other arm, he'd still be out there on (Super Bowl) Sunday."
Barber is hoping the arm is healed for the game.
"It's killing me," said Barber, referring to the mental aspect of playing with a cast. "I have to worry about it. And I hate having to worry about anything other than just playing. I'm praying it comes off this week."
GUARD THE BALL: The Giants are aware of Baltimore's ability to force turnovers. The Ravens led the league with 49 takeaways. They forced 45 fumbles and recovered 26.
"They practice that, coach that," Barber said. "We were watching it. They were pounding on it. So we have guys in practice pulling and punching at it (the ball) just so we remain aware of it. That's how they win ballgames; they create turnovers. And turnovers are probably going to win this ballgame."
WEEK OF RELIEF: Sehorn used the two-week break between the NFC championship and the Super Bowl to tend to family matters, including arranging travel plans to Tampa. But he acknowledged the layoff could be a boost to the Ravens.
"They had to play on the road in Tennessee, and then last week fly out to Oakland," Sehorn said. "If the game was this week, and they had to fly directly to Tampa from Oakland, they might be a pretty tired group of guys. But the extra week of rest might even out the playing field for them."
REST FOR THE WEARY: Coach Jim Fassel kept struggling punter Brad Maynard on the sideline during practice last week to rest his sore lower back. Maynard's average punt slipped at the end of the regular season from 40.6 yards to 33.4. He punted just once against Minnesota for 30 yards.
"He has a little tightness, and it's like any other player: Why have him work when we can rest him?" Fassel said. "It's something we especially didn't want to do in cold weather. We're hoping the warmer weather might make him feel better.
"Maybe the back has affected him. But I don't know. It's not a big deal. I think he'll be fine."
TRAVEL PLANS: Hotel prices for Super Bowl week are expensive, and the Giants are not exempt. They reserved 120 rooms at the Wyndham Westshore at $175 per night, a team rate. The team needed extra rooms, however, and will pay the going rate of $330. ... The team should depart Newark International Airport at 2:30 today and arrive in Tampa at 5.
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