Considering all the controversy surrounding Brandon Jacobs this season - losing his starting job in the preseason, throwing a helmet into the stands in Indianapolis, nearly demanding to be traded - his comments after yesterday's 31-7 win over the Redskins undoubtedly will surprise you.
Jacobs had just rushed for a season-high 103 yards and two touchdowns on only eight carries in his second game since winning back the starter's role. Wearing a bright green T-shirt with the phrase "Free Plaxico" emblazoned on the front and back - a reference to imprisoned former teammate Plaxico Burress - Jacobs stood in front of his locker and said this was about the happiest he's been in his entire career.
"I'm having a lot of fun playing," he said. "I think I'm having more fun this year than I had in 2007, when we won the Super Bowl. I just want to continue to have fun and keep on winning."
Wait . . . Did he just say fun? Jacobs? . . . Really?
It's a stunning turn of events for a player who just a few weeks ago was so incensed about his role - actually, his lack of a role - in the offense that he nearly asked to be traded.
Not only had he lost his starter's job to former seventh-round pick Ahmad Bradshaw in the preseason, but he had become so frustrated during a Week 2 loss to the Colts that he threw his helmet into the stands in frustration. Jacobs insisted it was accidental, but he nevertheless was fined $10,000.
But a sit-down with coach Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese in late September cleared the air about the organization's thinking, and Jacobs has since responded in a positive manner. No more whining. No more acting out - at least not in his own locker room. There was a verbal sparring match with fans two weeks ago in Philadelphia, for which he was fined an additional $20,000. But for the most part, it's just about football now.
"I let go of it all," Jacobs said about his early-season frustrations. "I just want to win. We're toward the end of the season, no one's keeping secrets, we're playing football. I'm really fresh right now. I've never felt so good in my career at this point in the season. I'm just going to give this team everything I've got, leave it all out there and work hard."
The hard work paid off in a big way yesterday. Jacobs rushed for an 8-yard touchdown on the Giants' first possession - after a 39-yard run on the second play from scrimmage - and scored on a dazzling 28-yard run midway through the third quarter to put the Giants up 28-0.
Jacobs didn't play after his second touchdown, but there were no injuries or ulterior motives at work. It appears the Giants were intent on getting Bradshaw to the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career. Bradshaw did just that, finishing with 97 yards on 25 carries to give him 1,013 rushing yards for the season.
"The coaches wanted to mix it up; they wanted Ahmad to get his 1,000," Jacobs said. "We all share the wealth. I like seeing those guys do well. He got it now, and we're rolling."
The one-two punch has been just what the Giants have needed to snap out of a two-game losing streak that threatened their playoff chances. Coughlin went back to Jacobs as the starter because of Bradshaw's fumbling problems, and the combination has helped key back-to-back home wins over the Jaguars and Redskins. With four weeks to go in the regular season, the Giants are in good shape for their playoff push.
"Running the football 'downhill' in December, that's the way to win," Jacobs said. "If you don't have an offense that can run the ball, you've got trouble."
Keep in mind that Jacobs and Bradshaw ran powerfully against the NFL's worst defense. But it's not unreasonable to think that they can continue running effectively in the final month. Especially with Jacobs' renewed optimism.
"I've always envisioned us as a power-running football team," Reese said. "At the middle of the season, I said it's time for Brandon Jacobs to put the power back in. He's been able to bring the juice."
As for Jacobs' enthusiasm, Reese seemed somewhat amused. "Brandon likes to talk a lot," he said, tongue planted firmly in cheek. "We don't pay that much attention to him, those of us who are here a lot."
But they do pay attention to results, with Sunday being the latest example of Jacobs' unlikely renaissance.