By BRUCE LOWITT
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 25, 2001
TAMPA -- Left tackle Lomas Brown's 16-year journey to the Super Bowl snaked torturously through Detroit, Arizona and Cleveland before he landed in New York and got into the fast lane to Tampa.
"I don't think I would have appreciated it as much if it had happened my first couple of years in the league," said Brown, a 1985 first-round draft pick by the Lions who signed with the Giants as a free agent last March. "It feels so much sweeter when you get to this point after waiting so long. I'm glad it took 16 years."
He thought for a moment.
"Uhh, maybe not 16," he said. "Maybe more like eight or nine."
Brown stretched shamelessly, calling attention to the black T-shirt stretched across his ample chest and gut.
O-line it read in big, white letters, and, in smaller letters underneath, Overworked and underappreciated.
"We're talking to the blue-collar people out there, the hard-working people," Brown said. "Those white-collar guys, they don't get their fingernails dirty, do they?"
And does he feel, well, what his shirt proclaims?
"Absolutely I feel that way," he said. "We toil in obscurity. The only time you hear about an offensive lineman is when he does something wrong, not when he does something right. That's why I have this shirt on."
It was born during the off-season in the mind of Luke Petitgout, who toils at right tackle.
"We'd be out there hitting the sleds, working for a couple of hours," Petitgout said, "and we'd see everyone else going off to the beach, going home, going somewhere with their stereos blasting."
The shirt (and hat, both available of course at www.oline.com) were Petitgout's way of making a point all-too-often overlooked.
Petitgout, the Giants' first-round draft choice out of Notre Dame in 1999, is the kid on New York's rebuilt o-line, relatively speaking.
In 1999, the team killed itself with penalties and the offensive line was the primary culprit -- false starts, holding and so on. In 2000, the Giants were among the leaders for fewest penalties committed, "and it started with that offensive line," coach Jim Fassel said.
"Everybody said -- and they were right -- that it's almost impossible to change your offensive line. We did it."
And it worked, he said, because of "the personality, the professionalism, the toughness" of the veterans he brought in. "Lomas Brown (a 16-year veteran), Glenn Parker (11 years), Dusty Zeigler (five years), all those guys carry that. It changed the whole complexion, the outlook of our offense."
Fassel said that late in the season he begins to reduce his quarterback's snaps in practice so he won't wear out his arm. Not this time.
"Kerry (Collins) will take all the snaps he needs to get ready. ... Kerry's strong, he's been strong, still throwing well," Fassel said. "I don't plan on reducing his reps at all and giving Jason (Garrett, the No. 2 quarterback) any more."
And how many reps would that be, Garrett was asked.
Parker is more than an oenophile.
"I love beer," he said. "Beer is kind of what got me in to wine in the first place."
He said he was first drawn to more than just drinking beer by the growing microbrewery movement in California.
"I was trying quality beers, beers that had flavor and body to them," Parker said. "I was talking about the smell, about the look, and someone mentioned, 'If you like that, you're going to love wine.'
"And I said, 'That's for snobby people. I'm not into wine.' But gradually, as one matures and one gets more discretionary income, one becomes snobby and likes wine."