Heisman winner a non-contributor this season
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.-- Ron Dayne's career with the New York Giants has slipped so low that even when he gets a featured role, it's a step in the wrong direction.
Dayne took over the starting job in the backfield Wednesday as the Giants (2-1) prepared for Sunday's game against the Miami Dolphins (2-1).
There was a catch, though. Dayne's No. 27 was covered over by a red mesh slip with the No. 34 on it.
His starting job was simulating Dolphins' running back Ricky Williams for the Giants' defense.
It's not the type of contribution the Heisman Trophy winner expected to be making when the Giants selected him in the first round in the 2000 NFL Draft.
"I just try to deal with it," Dayne said. "Maybe earlier in my career I would have been mad. I can't really can't do anything about it."
After being part of a "Thunder and Lightning" package with Tiki Barber in 2000, Dayne saw his number of carries dip from 228 to 180 in his second season and to 125 last year.
This year has been a big goose egg for the South Jersey resident who set an NCAA Division 1-A record gaining 6,397 yards at Wisconsin, breaking the record Williams set at Texas the year before.
While Williams has carried 93 times for the Dolphins, Dayne has been inactive for three games.
Giants coach Jim Fassel spoke with Dayne recently about his situation.
"I told him deep in my heart I believe he is going to help us win this year," Fassel said. "I can't lay it out for him as to how. But I said, `I like your attitude.' He is out there working. He is not pouting. He is not being critical or blaming it on other circumstances."
Dayne said that isn't his style.
"It isn't going to make a difference if I was around here cursing, talking to the media and saying something bad about the Giants," Dayne said. "It's not going to make a difference, get me on the field sooner. It might get me cut. I'm not going to talk trash."
Williams also won the Heisman Trophy - the year before Dayne did. Drafted in the first round by New Orleans, his 884 yards rushing on 253 carries were very similar to the rookie numbers posted by Dayne (228 for 770).
While Williams rushed for 1,000 yards in his second year and 1,245 in his third, his career didn't take off until he joined Miami, where he gained 1,853 yards last season.
"He wasn't in the right situation in New Orleans," Dayne said. "Once he got down to Miami and they gave him an opportunity, the team was his, like it was in college. He made a lot of plays and became the focal point. It's a big difference."
Dayne still believes in himself.
"I know what I can do," Dayne said. "Me not playing now, that's not up to me. It's something with the Giants. I know I am going to have my chance."
Dayne has one more year left on his contract, but it's questionable whether the Giants will keep him if he's not contributing. Williams knows the feeling.
"I can definitely relate to what he is going through and I think the best thing for him is just to get in a better situation for him - and he'll have a chance to show what he can do," Williams said. "But I am sure everything he is going through the past couple of years will be a very big and productive learning experience."
Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press