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SportsColumnistsBob Glauber

Eli Manning's work ethic second to none

Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants

Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants looks to pass in the first quarter against the Philadelphia Eagles at MetLife Stadium. (Nov. 20, 2011) Photo Credit: Getty Images

The weekly ritual begins on Monday evening, when Giants quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan sends the first batch of faxes to Eli Manning's home. It continues every day thereafter, as Sullivan sends over the plays that Manning will work on the following afternoon in practice.

It's part of Manning's exhaustive preparation for each game, which is critical to his success.

"Eli is a 24/7 quarterback," said Sullivan, who took over as quarterbacks coach last year after longtime Giants assistant Chris Palmer joined the Titans as offensive coordinator. "His work ethic is outstanding, with so much he does here in the building and at home. His determination is unbelievable."

Mastering the complicated position of NFL quarterback is easily the most demanding process in any sport. It requires a physical and mental commitment that only those who have done it or have witnessed it firsthand can truly appreciate. Sullivan marvels at Manning's diligence at practice, in the film room and also when he leaves Manning to his own devices during his players-only meetings.

"When you look at him from a preparation standpoint, you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who works harder at it than Eli," Sullivan said. "He will take the small points of anything, whether it be his mechanics or anything to do with getting better, and he'll take it to heart and try and improve on it."

A couple years ago, Manning began holding players-only meetings on Friday afternoons, and his coaches love the idea. Manning goes into a film room with his receivers -- no coaches allowed -- and reviews the game plan. He will use a clicker to run back plays from different games and methodically will examine each receiver's route, what he liked, what he didn't like. The tapes are made up by the Giants' video staff, which compiles specific plays Manning requests each week.

"I think it's helped just getting to know what the receivers are thinking and have them know what I'm thinking," Manning said. "A lot of it is just getting on the same page, and I think they've worked really hard in understanding the concepts of what we're doing every week."

It also helps explain why Manning has been able to make the adjustment over the years from a receiving corps that once relied on veterans Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress and now features young wideouts Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz. Nicks and Cruz each has more than 1,000 receiving yards this season, and Manning has surpassed 4,000 passing yards for the third consecutive year. He has thrown 25 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions -- 10 fewer than last season -- with two games to play.

Speaking of the meetings, Cruz said: "We get to understand what he sees, we understand what he's looking at on certain downs and distances, certain plays, how he wants to treat certain plays against certain coverages.

"It's more just for ourselves and Eli to get on the same page and know exactly what's going on play to play. It's a give and take, a rapport in there."

Manning also runs separate meetings on pass protections with his linemen and running backs, although his coaches sit in on those weekly sessions.

"He'll go through all the blitzes and pressures, and he talks through the protections," Sullivan said. "The great thing is that the environment he creates is very relaxed and comfortable. The players know all Eli cares about is making them better."

And making the Giants better. Manning is particularly anxious to atone for his worst game of the season last Sunday in a 23-10 loss to the Redskins, when he threw three interceptions in a critical defeat. He knows that can't happen again for the Giants to have a chance Saturday against the Jets at MetLife Stadium.

It will provide a test of how Manning can recover from a rare poor outing, something that Sullivan has tried to work on throughout the season. The coach likes to use a word to describe what he wants to see out of Manning after difficult moments. It's a word not often heard in NFL locker rooms.

"The big word is 'equanimity.' Just being in that state of mind where there might be all kinds of chaos on the outside, but on the inside, there's a calm, a focus, a resolve,'' Sullivan said.

"You can see sometimes where the camera will show his face, and there's a grit, a determination, a resolve. Any setbacks he sees as temporary, and he's ready to move on to the next play, to the next game."

The next game is the biggest of the season. A win against the Jets and another next week against the Cowboys, and the Giants are in the playoffs. A loss, and . . .

Well, Manning would rather not consider the alternative.

"If you said at the beginning of the season we would be in this position -- have two games left and knowing if you win you're in the playoffs -- you'd take it every time," Manning said. "Now it's how we handle it."

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