If you think the Giants can't play the underdog card now after winning their second Super Bowl in the last five seasons, just watch.
Defensive end Justin Tuck, who admits the team has thrived in recent years by trying to prove doubters wrong, is at it again. Whether it's experts predicting the Giants will finish third or fourth in the NFC East or all the attention the Jets are getting with the acquisition of Tim Tebow, Tuck believes there are still plenty of skeptics out there for his team to convince.
When it was suggested that it might not be so easy to adopt the underdog role after winning their second title since 2007, Tuck responded: "Is it? Everybody's saying we're going to be third or fourth in our division."
Not sure who "everybody" is, but Tuck said he has heard plenty of opinions suggesting the Giants were lucky to win last year's championship, and that they'll be overtaken this year by the Eagles and Cowboys. The Redskins? Tuck said he's heard all the chatter that Robert Griffin III is about to lead the Redskins back to respectability at the Giants' expense.
"We are probably the least talked about Super Bowl champion ever," Tuck said, underlining the "no respect" theme of the preseason. "How many Super Bowl champions have you covered -- ever -- that came in the next year and were picked fourth in their division?"
And if it isn't predictions of a Giants' slip-up, then all Tuck has to do is pick up a newspaper or turn on the radio or television to see that it's not the defending Super Bowl champions who people are talking about in New York. It's the Jets. Monday morning, for instance, ESPN carried live coverage of several portions of the Jets' practice in Cortland, complete with commentary about Tebow and Mark Sanchez from Ron Jaworski.
"And you said you can't use the word 'underdog'? " Tuck said from Camp Quiet, where even general manager Jerry Reese said it's almost too serene. "There are a lot of definitions of 'underdog'. I do find it amusing. The Jets have done some things PR-wise to make that team as relevant as they are. That's you guys making all the back pages for them."
Does the Giants' defensive captain take umbrage to all the attention being paid to the team in green and white? Not at all.
"I enjoy it," he said. "I think this football team doesn't really care about the accolades. We don't care about the recognition. We care about winning, and we don't care if it's an ugly win, or if people think it was lucky, or whatever it may be."
And the Jets have zero championships -- lucky or otherwise -- in 43 years. So for all the talk surrounding the Jets and Tebow, not to mention their walking, talking back page of a coach, it's the Giants who do things the right way in this town.
It's been that way since they emerged from the dark days from 1964 through the '70s with general manager George Young, Bill Parcells, Lawrence Taylor, Phil Simms, Mark Bavaro and Joe Morris. And it continues to this day with Tom Coughlin, Eli Manning, Tuck and many other quality players. Five Super Bowl appearances since 1986 and four titles make this one of the league's most enduring franchises of the last quarter-century.
The Jets may be kings of the back page, but the Giants are champions where it matters most. On the field.
"Hate the Jets? No, I don't hate the Jets," Tuck said. "I appreciate them. I'm glad they're doing well, because it takes the pressure off of us because y'all are writing about them and not us."
But Tuck is smart enough to know this probably won't be the last time his team contends for a championship. With a no-nonsense coach in Coughlin, who knows how to win football games if not spew quotable comments, a franchise quarterback in Manning, and a defense that boasts the deepest collection of pass rushers in football, this is a team that can win at least one more before its window of opportunity closes. And even if they don't, Tuck can walk away satisfied.
"At the end of the day," he said, "I have two lucky Super Bowl rings."
"That's what everybody else keeps saying," he said. "If everybody is saying it, then it might be true."
Us against the world again in 2012? The Giants wouldn't have it any other way.