NeMesiS Posted July 14, 2006 Share Posted July 14, 2006 www.bergen.com It's time Eli takes charge Thursday, July 13, 2006 By ADRIAN WOJNAROWSKI SPORTS COLUMNIST Everyone keeps tracing their fingers down the Giants' depth chart, surveying the big names, the growing reputations, suggesting this can be a Super Bowl contender. All along the way, there is this belief -- this hope, anyway -- that Eli Manning will grow into the job. Everyone is waiting on him, tapping feet, checking watches, wondering when he's going to arrive on the job. Giants training camp is coming fast, July 27, and the most important issue surrounding Manning's growth is still unresolved. He didn't get an off-season of working with his most important pass catchers, bonding on throws and timing and melding those disparate personalities. It's hard to believe the Giants haven't fallen behind with Jeremy Shockey and Plaxico Burress hanging in Miami instead of East Rutherford this off-season, that Manning hasn't been cheated out of something he desperately needed to develop. If you wanted to believe that Manning commanded the respect in the locker room to make Shockey and Burress spend this off-season working with him in Northern New Jersey, you're still disappointed. They blew off "voluntary workouts" at Giants Stadium, depriving Manning and the Giants of valuable time together. After the way everything fell apart at the end of last season, the way Manning regressed, there should've been a monumental push on the Giants' offense to take the next step. It showed the potential to be spectacular a year ago -- showed flashes of it -- but the Giants stumbled to the finish line. And now, this team returns to camp with this whole Shockey and Burress issue unresolved. They're still out there, distanced from this team, this quarterback, and it's a problem. "I think it's unfortunate that here he is a quarterback going into his third season, and he's not given the opportunity to throw to his three wide receivers throughout the off-season," Hall of Fame inductee Troy Aikman told reporters the other day. "I think that's a real mistake for Jeremy Shockey and Plaxico Burress ... not to be there with Eli Manning getting some timing down. I don't think you can get it in a minicamp. I don't think you get that in four weeks of training camp. I think it takes a lot of time and a lot of repetition. And they're not getting that kind of time. "Maybe it lends itself to some of the inaccuracies that Eli had last year." Whatever diplomacy Manning tried, it failed. They worked out in Miami, leaving Eli to consider an opening night national television Manning Bowl where the Giants quarterback won't be nearly as prepared for Peyton and the Colts as he could've been with a winter and spring of work with his receivers. Listen, this is the NFL. Everyone is accountable for himself. The ultimate reflection is on Shockey and Burress. Of course, they were problems before the Giants brought them into town, and they've been problems here. Still, it reflects on several people the way that two of the Giants' most expensive assets, Shockey and Burress, still can't be persuaded to go the distance with this team. Still, where's Tom Coughlin, tough coach, to get his receivers together with his quarterback? Why can't captains Michael Strahan and Tiki Barber reach these two guys? Mostly, though, you wished the quarterback has the influence in the locker room, the presence, to make them bend to his will. Nobody would pull this on his brother, Peyton. Or Aikman. Or any big-time quarterback who wanted to exert his will. Sometimes, it seems like he sees himself as the little brother, unsure where to assert himself, unsure how. There are some strong, strong personalities in that huddle and Manning needs to start showing that he can measure up. This isn't an indictment of him. It's the reality of his work. It isn't enough for a quarterback to just read defenses and throw tight spirals. He has got to lead his offense, if not his football team. The kid needs to start doing it now. It won't be easy. The Steelers let Burress walk and won a Super Bowl without him. He was a head case with them and stayed true to character with the Giants. He was benched to start the season in San Diego, and sulked his way to no catches and a missed exit meeting on the way out of the playoffs. Jerry Rice, the best ever, ripped Burress' professionalism in June on his national radio show, stunned over the way that Burress walked out on his teammates after that Carolina debacle. Shockey has been his own kind of headache, and it hasn't been the best news for the Giants that he and Burress became running buddies down in South Florida this off-season. Yet, there were no mysteries when the Giants drafted and finally signed Shockey to a long-term contract. The Giants wanted a football player, so they take the baggage that comes with him. Aikman is right. Manning is behind going into his third season, because Shockey and Burress wouldn't hang with him and run routes. In the end, the quarterback will take the heat for it. That's just how it goes. He needs to start telling those guys, telling everyone, this is his team, his time, and make someone in that locker room think twice about messing with it. 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