By BOB HARIG
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 28, 2001
TAMPA -- Jeff Hostetler is not surprised to see Kerry Collins excelling under Jim Fassel, the Giants coach who has a history of nurturing quarterbacks.
He helped John Elway prosper in Denver, as well as Hostetler with the Giants and again with the Raiders.
"I have so much respect for him," Hostetler said.
Hostetler was the Giants quarterback when they defeated the Bills 20-19 in 1991 at Tampa Stadium.
"It seems like 10 years ago," Hostetler said from Morgantown, W.Va., where he runs a small business. "It was a great time and everything, but it does seem like a long time ago."
Not so far back, however, that he has forgotten the details.
"It's all still as vivid as can be," said Hostetler, who replaced injured quarterback Phil Simms during the season. "In one sense it seems like a long time ago. But all the memories are right there on the top of your head.
"In the tunnel, getting ready to be introduced, running out, all the fans with their flags, Whitney Houston, the formation flying over top."
Anyone associated with the game would have a difficult time forgetting the backdrop: the Gulf War raged and security around the country, including at Tampa Stadium, was tight.
"In the second quarter, I got flattened," Hostetler said. "I can remember sitting there by myself and looking up above one of the end zones and there was a helicopter hovering with its guns out. Right there in the game. I saw that thing there and thought, "Man, can you believe we've got something like this going on, and we're playing a football game?' There are just all kinds of memories. They are right there."
Two weeks since the last game doesn't mean running back Tiki Barber will be without a brace on his left forearm. Barber broke a bone last month against Dallas. "It feels good, but I haven't taken a hit on it," Barber said. "I haven't practiced without it yet. I would like to not have to wear it, but when push comes to shove, I'll probably have to put it on."
Jason Garrett knows the feeling well. He's prepared for the big game again, knowing he'll only hit the field in case of an injury or a blowout. As the backup to Collins, Garrett would be counted on to lead the Giants should the Ravens knock Collins from the game, something they've done to opposing quarterbacks in all three playoff games.
"I like to think my preparation every week is for that scenario," Garrett said. "You try to do what you have to do to get physically ready, spending time with the game plan, watching film and getting yourself as ready as possible."
While in Tampa, receiver Ike Hilliard has spent time with former University of Florida teammates Reidel Anthony, Jacquez Green and Fred Taylor. Anthony and Green play for the Bucs and Taylor came to town from Jacksonville, where he plays for the Jaguars.
"We reminisced about playing at Florida, winning the national championship (in 1996)," Hilliard said. "You cherish those memories; 30 or 40 years from now, people will still be talking about that Florida team. To play in two (national title games) and win one is special."
Fullback Greg Comella expects to have a few collisions with Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis today. He hinted that New York has considered ways to stop the NFL's defensive player of the year.
"He is unblocked a lot because he is making a lot of plays," Comella said. "It's a catch-22. Because he's unblocked, he's making a lot of plays. Because he's making a lot of plays, he's unblocked.
"The one thing that has struck me when watching film on this guy: I'm surprised teams have not game-planned more. You have to revolve your game plan around him. I think you have to put a body on him. What happens is he makes plays early on and then his attitude and his swagger and the confidence becomes infectious. And the rest of the defense begins to play with that same confidence and attitude."