Manning, highly scrutinized, botches snaps

Updated: May 7, 2004, 6:07 PM ET
Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Eli Manning's first minicamp workout with the New York Giants was somewhat of a bust.

The top pick in the NFL daft botched two snaps, threw an interception and slipped on another pass, sending a wobbling duck of a toss on a 30-30 route, 30-yards up in the air and 30 yards downfield.

But it was caught by Tim Carter for a completion.

"I still have a lot of improvement to make, a lot to learn," an unflustered Manning said after lunch, surrounded by about 50 reporters. "It's going to be a long process and I look forward to it."

The Giants had to expect a lot more on Day 1 of their new era.

New York mortgaged the future on draft day, trading the rights to North Carolina State quarterback Philip Rivers, along with a third-round pick in the recent draft and first and fifth-round picks next year to San Diego for the son of Archie Manning and the brother of the Colts' Peyton Manning.

Eli Manning was labeled the next John Elway, and his acquisition led to the release of Kerry Collins a week later.

As about 30 still and television camera crews filmed his every throw and about 30 reporters -- a horde worthy of a playoff practice -- watched his every move Friday, Manning looked very much like a rookie.

He made some nice passes, but free agent rookie quarterback Jared Lorenzen threw the ball with more zip.

The fumbles on the snaps were sloppy. Manning worked with two different centers in the drills.

"He had excellent huddle command," Giants coach Tom Coughlin said a little sarcastically.

But Coughlin, who spoke with Manning after the fumbles, also liked what he saw from the Mississippi quarterback.

"He's fine, he's going to be fine," Coughlin said. "It will take a little time. There are a lot of things to adjust to. Obviously all the new things thrown at him, the different receivers, the different people working with him, the high grass. It will come. It will be fine."

Center Shaun O'Hara said it's too early to make any judgments.

"It's like trying to figure out how tall a kid is going to be after he is nine months old," O'Hara said. "You can't put too much into it. Let him weather the storm. He got in yesterday. He doesn't know where he is now."

Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan said Manning is like a deer in the headlights now.

"I'm just expecting him to come in and do his best," Strahan said. "I don't think there is any pressure on him to come and take over this team and be the man. I think he has to understand we are all willing to wait and to be patient with him."

Manning handled the situation like a veteran. He made no excuses. He said he planned to work hard, and showed a sense of humor when asked about all the attention.

"There is more press here than the whole state of Mississippi combined," Manning said.

Even with Collins gone, Manning refused to claim the starting job. He said his first goal is to earn the respect of his new teammates.

"I am going to prepare myself for the first game," Manning said. "If they put me in, I am going to be ready."


Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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