By BOB HARIG
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 23, 2001
TAMPA -- There is no question Tiki Barber is enjoying his Super Bowl experience.
The Giants running back has had a video camera virtually welded to his eye since arriving, making sure to save all the sights and sounds for the future.
And as an added bonus, he gets to hang out with his twin brother, Ronde, a defensive back for the Tampa Bay Bucs.
In fact, Tiki had the pleasure of sharing dinner with Ronde on Sunday and Monday nights.
"It's kind of cool having him down here," Tiki said during a media session Monday night at the Wyndham Westshore hotel. "I can get away. No one can find me when I go to his house. He's got a gate, so nobody can follow me."
The Giants hit the practice field Monday at One Buc Place, although briefly. After a morning meeting, the team ran 20 offensive plays, 20 defensive plays and spent 15 minutes working on special teams, coach Jim Fassel said.
"Our practice was not designed for physical contact or high intensity," he said. "We were going to go back and focus on other things. ... It was a good start for us."
It was after a 31-21 home loss to Detroit that Fassel issued his now-famous guarantee that the Giants would make the playoffs.
"That was a great thing for our team, a great thing for our organization," safety Shaun Williams said. "We built on that. It was nothing but good."
The Giants won their last five regular-season games to claim the NFC East title and clinch home-field advantage in the playoffs. Two victories later, the Giants have won seven in a row and are in the Super Bowl.
But defensive end Michael Strahan believes a 9-7 victory over Washington two weeks after Fassel's decree was even more important. The Giants survived a 49-yard missed field goal in the final seconds left.
"We came together because had anybody blamed anybody or expected somebody else to do something outside of doing it themselves, we were going to lose the game," Strahan said. "And if they made the field goal at the end, it probably would have set us back two to three years. I don't know if any of us ever would have recovered from that. I think that was a catalyst for us."
Fassel said no such speeches are necessary at this point.
"As a coach you have to know when you're coming around the final turn and how to push your team to the next level," he said. "Sometimes you can overdo something. You can now try to be cute and funny. I said it because I believed it 100 percent. I was angry and upset, and I had to get the focus going in a direction. I achieved that. Now, I don't have to be cute and funny and quotable."
Jessie Armstead, a standout linebacker on two national championship teams at Miami, is in his eighth season in the NFL, all with the Giants. But he still remembers the disappointment of not being drafted until the eighth round, the 207th pick overall.
"There were 34 linebackers picked before me," Armstead said. "All 34 of them were behind me (in projections) when I blew my knee and shoulder out. That's not to knock those guys, but I suppose everything happens for a reason."