Barrow on pace for record-setting season

Updated: November 6, 2003, 8:23 PM ET
ESPN

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Mike Barrow is making an impact with the New York Giants the old-fashioned way for middle linebackers -- with tackle after tackle after tackle.

Halfway through the season, Barrow has 96 tackles and is well on the way to breaking the Giants' single-season best of 146 tackles set by Harry Carson in 1979.

"He's hustled his butt off," defensive end Michael Strahan said of Barrow. "I told him early this year, 'I have never seen you play like this in all the years you have been here.'

"I have never seen him come downhill as fast as he has," Strahan said Thursday. "I have never seen him hit a gap as quick as he has. He's making a lot of tackles that he may have fallen off before. I think he has worked hard to do it and it's good to see."

The production isn't new for Barrow, who was signed by the Giants before the 2000 season. The 11-year veteran led the Giants in tackles the past two seasons, recording 133 in 2002, two fewer than he had in 2001.

Barrow seemingly wasn't satisfied, though. During the offseason he took a passing machine home to work on catching the ball.

When the Giants reported to training camp, he spent time after practice working with tight ends coach Mike Pope.

"I want to make those impact plays," Barrow said. "That was one of my goals in the offseason, to be an impact player. The only way you can do that is to get those sacks, make the forced fumbles or the saving tackles. I am changing my game, to take a little more risk, but within the scheme."

Barrow has forced three fumbles and gotten 1{ sacks, but all the work with his hands hasn't paid off yet. He still has intercepted just two passes in his career.

"Mike is one of the guys you love to have on your team," coach Jim Fassel said. "He is everything you want: solid guy, leader and all of those things. But he doesn't try to be outside of that a self-promoter."

Barrow sidesteps questions whether he is having a Pro Bowl season. He admits that was something he felt he deserved earlier in his career.

"I'm like the ugly duckling who has to keep saying, `I'm pretty. I'm pretty," said Barrow, who had 18 tackles in Sunday's 31-28 overtime win over the Jets. The total wasn't even his best of the season. He had 22 in the overtime loss to Dallas.

Barrow jokes about how announcers describe his play.

"If I make a tackle it's like: `Oh, he made a tackle,' Barrow said. "If it's somebody else it's: `Did you see that tackle?"

Barrow knows every middle linebacker plays in the shadow of Ray Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens' star who, like Barrow, is a Miami product.

"My stats compare to other guys' by far," Barrow said. "But I don't have a name. A name goes a long way. We have people in the entertainment field who can't sing, but they got a name."

For now, Barrow may have to settle for helping the Giants win.

"If people say Mike Barrow helped the New York Giants win, that's my greatest desire," Barrow said.

Strahan knows that's a never-ending quest for Barrow.

"We ride to the games together and talk about what we expect to do in the game," Strahan said. "It's good to see him living up to his own expectations. The one thing about him is he never stops thinking about football."

Barrow has two years left on his contract, with each remaining year costing the Giants more than $3.4 million.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index