July 27, 2006

Giants Barber says QB Manning is key to Super Bowl

By Larry Fine

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Part of running back Tiki Barber's job
is to protect the passer, but the New York Giant hopes young
quarterback Eli Manning can impose himself this season and lead
the team to the Super Bowl.

The Giants (11-5) reached the playoffs last season,
Manning's first full year as a starter, but were humbled 23-0
in the first round by the visiting Carolina Panthers.

With the additions of linebacker LaVar Arrington,
cornerback Sam Madison and speedy receiver Sinorice Moss in the
off-season, Barber believes the Giants have the weaponry to
emerge from the tough NFC East and reach the Super Bowl.

Provided Manning, 25, can emerge as an on-field leader.

"He made great strides from year one to year two,
exponentially," Barber told Reuters in an interview ahead of
the opening of Giants training camp this week.

"What we're looking for in year three is for him to take on
that leadership ability where he can kind of have an autonomy
from the coaching staff to use all of his weapons."

Barber, 31, whose blocking against the blitz helps keep the
quarterback in one piece, is one of the primary weapons at
Manning's disposal along with rugged tight end Jeremy Shockey
and towering wide receiver Plaxico Burress.


"When people talk about Eli being our key, that's what it
is," said Barber, whose twin brother Ronde plays cornerback for
the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

"He can change any play at any time to something he wants.
I think that's going to be the biggest jump for him from last
year to this year. He's going to be able to recognize these

The Giants needed contributions from every unit if they
were to prevail in the NFC East, where the Washington Redskins,
Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys had all made progress
from last season, he added.

But Barber thought the Giants' off-season changes would
allow them to stay ahead of the pack, particularly the signing
of former Redskin Arrington.

"Getting LaVar is huge," he said. "We haven't had a player
with that attitude of 'you piss me off, I'm gonna break your
head,' since Jessie Armstead."

Barber said the team were aiming higher than last season,
when their goals were simply to restore pride and get to the

"We needed to set our goal at the beginning of training to
get to the Super Bowl and win the Super Bowl and Coach (Tom)
Coughlin has done that."