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Bradshaw-Jacobs Bond Runs Deep


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Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw thought no one could fill the huge void in his life after his older brother Ronell died of heart failure when Ahmad was just 10 years old.


Then came Brandon Jacobs.


Bradshaw's eyes practically mist up when he talks about Jacobs, who has become his mate in more than just the Big Blue backfield in just three short years together.


The family-like fierceness of that bond explains why a dynamic that might tear apart many locker rooms -- one proud player (Jacobs) losing his starting job to another proud player (Bradshaw) -- has instead become a strength for the Giants.


"He's become that big brother that I lost when [Ronell] died," Bradshaw told The Post this week. "He looks out for me, gives me courage and makes sure I'm doing the right thing. He's always there for me, and I love the guy."


The surging Giants, winners of three in a row and leading the NFC East at 4-2 as they head into tomorrow night's visit to the Cowboys, certainly love the results of the Bradshaw-Jacobs combination since Bradshaw was named the starter over Jacobs in training camp.


Bradshaw leads the NFC in rushing with 582 yards, and Jacobs has scored four touchdowns in the past three games and has become a model citizen since venting publicly about his demotion and getting fined $10,000 for throwing his helmet into the stands in Indianapolis.


Together, they're a big reason why the Giants are fifth in the NFL in rushing and suddenly look like Super Bowl contenders in a weakened conference.


Jacobs said he wonders if any of that would have been possible had he and Bradshaw not been so close.


"He's my little brother from another mother," said Jacobs, who at age 28 is four years older than Bradshaw. "On most teams, guys that go through the situation Ahmad and I just had, the friendship is going to break down. But that's not the case here because both of us know this stuff doesn't matter and that our friendship is going to outlast all of it."


To say the two players are close would be an understatement. Not only have they have had lockers next to each other since Bradshaw's rookie year in 2007, but they also live so close to each other in New Jersey that they regularly carpool to the Gi ants' practice fa cility.


Their signifi cant others are best friends, too, and the two fam ilies usually can be found din ing out to gether or eating at each other's homes when they're not vacationing together in the offseason.


Bradshaw, Jacobs and the Giants certainly know how unusual that closeness is in an NFL locker room for two players playing the same position.


"We're blessed to have it be that way," Giants running backs coach Jerald Ingram told The Post. "In a lot of cases, guys like that might be at each other's throats and it's a problem. But these guys are more like brothers than any two guys I've ever seen."


Both players say they were determined not to let it hurt their friendship from the moment they were told Jacobs would lose his starting job, which Bradshaw revealed was as far back as June.


Jacobs com plained openly, but he always made it clear -- at least to Bradshaw -- that his beef was with the front office and not with his close friend.


"We both looked at it as, 'I've earned it,' " Bradshaw said. "He always told me that I had nothing to do with it, that it was the front office. He even said that I deserved it."


All true, according to Jacobs.


"I want to see him excel and do well and take care of his family, and I'm happy to see this happen for him," Jacobs said. "I've told him to take the opportunity and run with it."


Speculation remains that the helmet incident and sulking combined with his big salary and declining production could result in this being Jacobs' last season with the Giants. That's something Bradshaw doesn't even want to think about.


"That would be tough for me," he said. "Of course, I would be upset, because he's put me under his wing since Day 1. He's a big brother to me, and you never want your big brother to leave -- ever."


It's something Bradshaw poignantly knows all too well.




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Brandon Jacobs: The Untold Story


WAYNE, N.J.—After several starts and stops, Brandon Jacobs finally settled on the line to start his own story: "I'm a normal person."


For six years in the NFL now, and several in college before then, someone else has been writing the story of Brandon Jacobs, the bull of a running back for the New York Giants, a 6-foot-4, 265-pound "thumper," as coach Tom Coughlin called him last week.


Today, the most common telling of Mr. Jacobs' story is that he's a lineman-sized malcontent, a petulant little boy who had his ball taken away and so is sulking. After rushing for more than 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons and playing hurt all of last season, Mr. Jacobs this season was supplanted as the Giants' primary tailback by Ahmad Bradshaw.


His helmet-flinging incident in Indianapolis in Week Two, which he says was accidental, and the subsequent reported trade request, which he insistently denies making, wraps up the caricature: Mr. Jacobs is a sometimes forceful, sometimes moody emotional liability.


"When I hear that, the first thing in my mind is, I feel really bad for him," Tiffany Burress says. "People don't have a clue."


Mrs. Burress knows a thing or two about the one-dimensionality of tabloid portraits. She also knows a few things about Mr. Jacobs and his wife Kim, people she calls "our family."


Mrs. Burress's husband Plaxico made the game-winning catch in the Giants' Super Bowl XLII victory. Nine months later, while carrying an improperly licensed handgun at a New York City nightclub, he inadvertently shot himself in the leg, and is now serving a two-year sentence in the Oneida Correctional Facility.


The first person to visit him in jail? Mr. Jacobs. The only Giant on Mr. Burress's 10-person prison call list? Mr. Jacobs. The man who makes sure to spend time every week rough-housing with the Burresses' 3 1/2-year-old son Elijah? Mr. Jacobs.


"He and Kim both go so out of their way," Mrs. Burress says. "Elijah talks to Plax on the phone every day, but Brandon makes sure Elijah has someone here."


Earlier in the day, as he sat at the raised kitchen table in his brightly-hued Wayne, N.J., home, Mr. Jacobs said maybe that's the story he would tell of himself. One, he said, "about us, Plax and his kids."


Mr. Jacobs believes it's his responsibility to speak for Mr. Burress. He formally addressed the media only once during training camp in Albany this year and on that day, he wore a shirt that read, "Free 17 Let Him Ball Out," the "17" referencing Mr. Burress' jersey number.


And yet, until now, Mr. Jacobs hasn't spoken of why–and how–that responsibility extends to the Burress children. And when the conversation wends itself that way on this day in his kitchen, there's a different vigor to his engagement. He hasn't opened his home on this day so much to argue that some public sense of him may be misguided, but more to say: How many yards he gains isn't all he is.


As he watches his 3 1/2-year-old son Brayden hugging baby brother Quinn in the next room, Mr. Jacobs says, "I know what kind of life Plax lived growing up. I know what kind of life I lived growing up. And I know no one else can really judge that."


"Plax has overcome a lot of things in his life people don't know about. If he was home right now, he'd be doing all these things I do with Elijah," he says.


Mr. Jacobs had 17 cousins in his Napoleonville, La., neighborhood, but no father. Mr. Burress didn't have a father at home, either, and although the men were friends as teammates, they became closer when it appeared Mr. Burress's son, just six weeks older than Mr. Jacobs's, may have a spell without a father in his house.


"Elijah is my best friend," Brayden says, clutching a bat and a ball he refuses to hit off a tee.


Brayden is a blur of energy, exceedingly polite and exceptionally friendly, shaking hands, talking about books and gleefully shouting that his dad's job is to run with the ball. He goads his dad into wrestling on the kitchen floor at one point and after Brayden finally worms his way loose, Mr. Jacobs says that moment right there is exactly why it's so important Elijah spend time at his house.


"Elijah is quiet, just like his father. And he's home with two women all day. They're not going to play rough like this with him," he says, as his wife affectionately rolls her eyes. The women are Elijah's mom Mrs. Burress, a lawyer, and his sister, 10-month old Giovanna.


They come over to the Jacobses' too, but it's Elijah Mr. Jacobs asks about when he calls Mrs. Burress. And it's Elijah he makes sure gets in the Jacobses' backyard pool with Brayden. (Mr. Jacobs nearly drowned when he was 12 and it was current Giants cornerback Corey Webster, then an AAU basketball teammate, who fished him out of the pool. Brayden has been swimming laps for a year.)


"It's just who he is," Mrs. Jacobs says with a shrug, unmoved by her husband's readiness to play surrogate dad.


She fought him a few years ago, when he wanted to move his 14-year old cousin into the one-bedroom apartment they already shared with two dogs. But last year, firmly ensconced in this seven-bedroom house, she opened the door to the then-17 year old Trevor, who today is a redshirt freshman running back at Northern Illinois.


The Jacobses met during Brandon's one year at Auburn, when Kim was finishing a master's degree in early childhood development. They moved to Illinois together, where they lived in a trailer—the size, Mr. Jacobs guesses, of his current kitchen and family room—and Mrs. Jacobs worked three jobs, as a substitute science teacher, at a learning center and at an Old Navy.


"I still buy his clothes at Old Navy," she says, motioning to the striped blue and white shirt Mr. Jacobs is wearing on this day.


He's just this week finished, as she'd begged, all the coursework for his bachelor's degree, a year and a half after signing a four-year, $25 million contract.


"I did it so she'd get off my back," he says. Then, smiling broadly, he says, "But it is a big accomplishment. I am proud."


Trevor Jacobs loves hearing stories of his cousin as reluctant student, because phone conversations with Mr. Jacobs now, he says, are "all about grades, grades, grades."


"There are two things about Brandon I don't think people know," Trevor says. "One is that no matter how busy he is, he always makes sure to leave time for Kim and the kids. The second is how hard he works at football. The first time I went training with him, I'm not exaggerating, he had to carry me off the field. I tried to walk and I fell twice."


That is definitely not the story Mr. Jacobs would bother telling.


"People focus way too much on football," he says.


That, though, is why he has this stage. Giants fans care why he seemed so tentative earlier in the year, looking like a scat back he's not. ("I was thinking too much about where holes might be," he says.)


They are heartened by how powerfully he's run these past three games, by the two times he bulled his way into the end zone a week ago against the Lions, and by the trademark celebratory dance after the second touchdown. But they wonder, too, if he's one bad game from turning into a locker room cancer.


He swears that the primary reason he pouted when Mr. Bradshaw was given the Giants' top job was because "no one in the organization ever told me, or explained why." He raves about Mr. Bradshaw's ability to gain yardage where there is none and of course his wife invited Mr. Bradshaw's wife and children to come over and carve pumpkins.


"I love watching Ahmad run," he says. "None of that was about him. We're supposed to compete and make each other better. That's how you win."


And yet, when Mr. Bradshaw is asked if he'd chat about Mr. Jacobs for a minute, he gets defensive and angrily says, "No, I will not talk about Brandon. He's my big brother."


Told that that's the point, that the questions are about the ways in which Mr. Jacobs has taken him under his wing, Mr. Bradshaw raises an eyebrow and says, "Since when does anyone care about that?"


Mrs. Jacobs says she wishes more people did, that they wouldn't always jump to the worst conclusion. As they did in Indianapolis, when in that moment of frustration, Mr. Jacobs heaved his helmet.


"That was bad. He's not a saint. But...it felt like people wanted to believe something regardless of the facts," she says.


Mr. Jacobs shakes his head, smiles at his wife and tells her it doesn't matter. He's never had a DUI, an incident with a gun, or a legal brush as an NFL player, he says. He's never grumpy at home and the people who matter to them, he tells Mrs. Jacobs, know him.


A few weeks ago, Giants co-owner Steve Tisch invited Mrs. Burress out to the new stadium with him. She dressed Elijah in one of Mr. Burress' No. 17 replica jerseys, they climbed into their seats and Elijah realized his father wasn't out on the field.


"He got really serious and said, 'If Daddy's not there, then I want a Brandon Jacobs jersey. You call Kim and tell her I need a Brandon Jacobs jersey right now,'" Mrs. Burress said, giggling as she remembers her son's order. When she shared the story with her husband, she said, "Plax was cracking up."


"Brandon looks at Elijah as if he's his. He treats him like he's Brayden, like he's his own son," Mrs. Burress says quietly. "Plax and I know he doesn't have to do that."



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