What will Giants do for encore in 2012?
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Even Justin Tuck had trouble figuring it out.
"I'm no engineer," the Giants' defensive end said. "I only did two weeks of those classes [at Notre Dame] and I had to get out of it. It was too much for me. Too much for me."
And this is the man who is supposed to build a bridge?
Good thing for the Giants it's a metaphorical one, a span that will link the things they accomplished in the final six games of the 2011 season with how they want to play in 2012.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin has decided that the term "Build the Bridge" will be the rallying cry for this season, or at least the start of it. For a team that plays in New Jersey but is identified with New York, could there be a better image?
This is, after all, the region that was brought together by bridge-building geniuses like John Roebling (the Brooklyn Bridge), Othmar Ammann (the Verrazano and George Washington Bridges) and Gustav Lindenthal (the Williamsburg and Queensboro Bridges).
In terms of football, though, it may seem an odd choice. While many defending Super Bowl champions try their hardest to distance themselves from their accomplishment, using terms like "turn the page," "new chapter," and "a whole new season," these Giants are intent on embracing their success, reminding themselves of it routinely, and, with any luck, adding to their six-game winning streak.
"I think you have to take every team individually," linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka said of the Giants' thinking. "You have to take what works, strengths and weaknesses, and understand them. I think for this team instead of just turning the page and completely leaving that behind, it might be important for us to go back and revisit some of the positive things we did during the end of the season that helped us get to where we were."
If you're going to go through the effort of building a bridge, it has to be to connect to a worthwhile destination. And in the case of the Giants' postseason (plus the last two wins that got them in) that's certainly the case. After shuffling through to a 7-7 record, the team changed personalities like Clark Kent in a phone booth beginning with the Jets game on Christmas Eve.
That's the team they want to show up this season.
"We're not looking back saying 'Oh, look at how good we were at the end of the year,' " Kiwanuka said. "We're looking back saying 'These are the things that made us good.' We need to continue that otherwise we're not going to be good come this next year. It's more about remembering the lessons that we learned. We learned some tough ones."
Said Tuck, "We're embracing [the past] to play the way that we played leading up to the Super Bowl, not still thinking of the glory of seeing the confetti come down and getting our rings. We're not thinking of that part of it. We're just thinking about our play and trying to build a bridge from playing as an all-in unit. That's the only embracing we're doing.
"As far as the actual winning of the Super Bowl, I don't think anybody is even thinking about that now. That's past. It's over with. We're thinking about building a bridge to the next Super Bowl."
It's quite the gulf between here and there, Super Bowl XLVII, on Feb. 3 in New Orleans. The Giants face the most arduous schedule in the NFL. They play in one of its most grueling divisions. They're already battling injuries at key positions.
On the plus side, they do have two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning.
Until February -- whether they are playing in or watching Super Bowl XLVII -- the Giants will be balancing the concept of being the defending champs, deciding when to rely on that confidence and when to ignore it. "We understand that we are Super Bowl XLVI champions," safety Antrel Rolle said. "But we also understand that this is a new season and we have to go out there and make our mark and try to make things as consistent as they were going into the later part of the season and even raising that level of play. We're hungry, we're not taking anything for granted and we're going out there and we're aiming high."
Still, it's been six months since the Giants felt that rush of success, played up to (or beyond as some might say) their potential, and lifted a trophy. Six months is an awful long time to span.
"There are a lot of long bridges in the world," Tuck said, "and I'm sure they took a lot longer to build than six months."
Roebling, Ammann and Lindenthal couldn't have said it better themselves.