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Filling the Slot


Jim Finn is about to lose his exclusive place in NFL trivia history.

Finn, now retired, is the only player who caught regular season passes from both Peyton and Eli Manning. Brandon Stokley will likely make it a twosome on Monday night.

Stokley, a 13-year veteran, joined the Giants today and is expected to fill their need for a slot receiver, beginning with the home opener Monday night against the St. Louis Rams,

"Hopefully, (I will) help move some chains and help get some first downs and help win some ballgames," Stokley said today after his first Giants practice. "That is what I am about, anything to help this team. That is what I am here trying to do."

Stokley was contacted by the Giants early this week, worked out with several other receivers and was signed by the Giants yesterday.

"He worked out the best," Coach Tom Coughlin said. "He displayed very good hands. Movement. Good condition."

Stokley, 35, has previously played for Baltimore, Indianapolis, Denver and Seattle. He has played in 128 regular season games with 35 starts and his career totals include 338 catches for 4,673 yards and 34 touchdowns. Stokley has also played in 14 postseason games with three starts, including two last year for the Seahawks. His postseason totals are 43 receptions for 620 yards and six touchdowns, including a 38-yard touchdown for the Ravens against the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.

"We know his past, his record, the way he's played in the league," Coughlin said. "We think he can be an excellent addition to our slot performers and I think the young guys are going to benefit greatly from just watching and studying him."

"It gives us an experienced guy to play inside, so we are excited to see what he can do and how quickly he can learn our nomenclature and assimilate the offense," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "We are excited about having him."

Although no one was ready to say with certainly that Stokley will be ready to face the Rams, it will be an upset if he doesn't pick up enough of the offense to make a contribution.

"We only had one day of practice," Gilbride said. "Today, we asked him to do the things he had been doing his whole life. The things that would be unique to what we do, we will gradually expose him to. There are things that are universally done. You call them different things but they are the same thing. You run a hook route, you run a corner route, you run an in-cut. Everywhere and everybody does it, it is just a matter of what do you call it. Some of the other stuff, the more reading and sophisticated thing, we will expose it to him little by little."

Stokley has a history with the Mannings. When he was in college at Southwestern Louisiana (now Louisiana-Lafayette) he attended the annual Manning Passing Academy. One of the quarterbacks he caught passes from was Eli, who was then in high school. Archie, Peyton and Cooper Manning also teach at the camp every year.

From 2003-06, Stokley played with Peyton Manning on the Colts. In those four seasons, he caught 139 passes for 1,916 yards and 15 touchdowns in the regular season. Stokley added 22 catches for 33 yards and three scores in the postseason and was a member of the Colts team that won Super Bowl XLI.

Finn played for the Colts from 2000-02 and caught 10 of Peyton Manning's passes. He joined the Giants in 2003, a year before Eli, and had accounted for 29 of the quarterback's 1,950 completions (and counting) before leaving after the 2006 season. Now Stokley hopes to become a reliable target for a second Manning.

But first he must learn the Giants offense, a difficult assignment to complete in only four days.

"That is the nature of the beast," Stokley said. "I'm just trying to learn as much as I can and get as much work in as I can in practice. It is what it is. It is not easy but that is the way it goes. It is not an easy job to begin with, but I have been doing it a long time and I am thankful for the opportunity to be here playing football."

The Giants have searched for a slot receiver since Steve Smith signed with Philadelphia – or, more accurately, when Smith suffered the torn pectoral muscle that preceded the knee injury, which together limited him to one game and one reception in the second half of the 2010 season. Their in-house candidates included Domenik Hixon, Victor Cruz and rookie Jerrel Jernigan. In last Sunday's season opener in Washington, Jernigan was inactive; Cruz was targeted twice, did not catch a pass and had a costly early drop; and Hixon had two receptions for 21 yards.

"We have two young guys that we think can do it," Gilbride said. "How fast will they be able to evolve into the experienced receiver that you need at that spot where everything is happening so quickly inside.

"I feel pretty good about this particular guy (Stokley) because he is an intelligent guy who has shown the quickness that you need to react to with all the different variables that they place inside and also to have the quickness to get some separation when they are playing cover two or man. I think he will bring something to the table that we are looking forward to having and what we were really in need of since Steve Smith's injury."

Stokley arrives with a wealth of experience. He entered the NFL as a fourth-round draft choice by the Ravens in 1999. His only catch as a rookie was a 28-yard touchdown, but his season ended on Oct. 25, when he was placed on injured reserve with a dislocated shoulder.

The next year he played in seven regular season games and four in the playoffs. One of his seven postseason receptions was a 38-yard touchdown that gave Baltimore a 7-0 lead over the Giants in Super Bowl XXXV.

"I remember it being my second year in the league and just being in awe," Stokley said. "A kid from Louisiana playing in the Super Bowl and feeling really blessed to be there and to win it was awesome. Never in my dreams would I have imagined winning and catching a touchdown. It is definitely top of my list."

Stokley joined the Colts in 2003. The following year, he had his most productive season as a pro as he played in all 16 games and posted career-high totals of 68 catches for 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was a member of the 2006 Indianapolis team that won Super Bowl XVLI, though he was limited to four games that season by ankle, knee and Achilles tendon injuries.

In 2007, Stokley began a three-year stint with the Broncos. Last year, he was in training camp with Denver. Stokley was placed on injured reserve, terminated with an injury settlement and signed with the Seahawks on Sept. 28. He played in 11 regular season games without a start and had 31 catches, with no touchdowns. But he started both of Seattle's postseason games and had 12 catches for 158 yards and two scores – a 45-yarder against New Orleans and a nine-yarder in Chicago.

Stokley wanted to continue his career, but didn't know if he'd get the chance.

"I knew I could still play," he said. "But I just wasn't given an opportunity for whatever reason. I don't know why. I thought I proved last year, especially at the end of the season, I could still play. But there just weren't many opportunities. I think the lockout hurt me. A lot of teams wanted to look at their young guys and if I was in camp, I would be taking reps away from those guys. So the opportunity wasn't there for me to get in a camp and try to earn a job."

Since the end of the 2010 season, Stokley has worked near his home in Denver with a group of players that for a week included safety Derrick Martin, now his Giants teammate.

"All I was looking for was a chance," Stokley said. "If I did get that chance, I wanted to be in shape and ready to go.

"I got the opportunity and I'm looking forward to it. When you play so long it's tough to get it out of your system. I'm glad to still be playing and I'm looking forward to competing and hopefully helping this team get some wins."

*Defensive end Justin Tuck, who missed the Redskins game, practiced on a limited basis for a second straight day, though Coughlin said, "He almost worked everything." Tuck said his neck "feels a lot better," but wouldn't commit to playing Monday night. "Monday isn't here yet," he said.

*Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (bone bruise in knee) missed practice for the second day in a row. But he did not have an adverse reaction to running yesterday and expects to face the Rams.

"Definitely - I think it will be my decision," said Nicks, who added it will be a matter of how much pain he can tolerate. "I think I do pretty well," he said of his tolerance. "I feel like I'm good. Swelling is down. I'm going to go out there tomorrow, individual, see how we take it and then see how I respond from doing individual tomorrow. Then we'll see what's up Saturday.

"If I'm feeling good like the way I'm feeling, I feel like I can go out there and play.'

*Defensive end Osi Umenyiora (knee), cornerback Prince Amukamara (foot) and tight end Travis Beckum (hamstring) also did not practice.

*For the Rams, running back Steve Jackson (quad), wide receiver Danny Amendola (elbow) and defensive end C.J. Ah You (wrist) did not practice. Quarterback Sam Bradford (finger) was limited.

*To make room on the roster for Stokley, the Giants waived defensive end Justin Trattou, who was signed off the practice squad last Saturday and played in the regular-season opener in Washington on Sunday.

*The Giants' record in home openers is 47-35-4. This is the record broken down by the Giants' home stadiums:

            Polo Grounds: 18-10-3

            Yankee Stadium: 9-8-1

            Yale Bowl: 0-1

            Shea Stadium: 0-1

            Giants Stadium: 19-15 (after a 1-7 start)

            MetLife Stadium: 1-0

*The Giants' record on Monday Night Football is 21-31-1. Their home record on Monday night is 6-8. The Giants and Rams have met just once previously on a Monday night. On Dec. 10, 1973, the Giants suffered a 40-6 loss in Los Angeles.

*The Giants last played their home opener on a Monday night in 1995, when they lost to Dallas.

*Coughlin is 2-1 against the Rams.

*The Giants encourage fans to arrive early and be patient about entering the stadium on Monday night. The enhanced security procedures at the stadium gates recommended by the NFL will increase the comfort and safety of fans at the game, but will require some additional time for inspections at the gates. Fans are asked to come early, enjoy the best tailgating tradition in the NFL, and take advantage of the video boards and other new amenities outside MetLife Stadium.

In addition, fans are urged to arrive at the stadium early because players from the 1986 Super Bowl XXI championship team, which will be honored at halftime, will be throughout the stadium plaza making appearances and signing autographs.

In order to accommodate this security enhancement, guests are asked to arrive earlier than normal to avoid longer security lines at the checkpoints. Guests may refuse inspections; however, stadium management reserves the right to refuse entry.

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