After a late-night celebration with family and friends, after visiting Disney World and chatting with David Letterman, after rolling down the Canyon of Heroes and speaking to the frenzied crowd in MetLife Stadium and after a well-deserved rest, Eli Manning mimicked what more than 100 million Americans had done on Feb. 5 – he watched the Giants' 21-17 victory over New England in Super Bowl XLVI.
"I've gone back and watched the game," Manning said yesterday. "I kind of like to sit there and watch the game, the T.V. copy, watch all the commercials, watch halftime, kind of go through the fan's perspective of watching the game. So I enjoyed that. But I try to reflect on the whole season."
Manning and four of his championship teammates – Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham, Antrel Rolle and Jason Pierre-Paul – had an opportunity to do that at the premier of the hour-long DVD, Super Bowl XLVI Champions: New York Giants, produced by Vivendi Entertainment and NFL Films. The DVD, which begins with the Giants' Super Bowl XLII triumph over the Patriots, covers the team's entire 2011 season with terrific video clips and illuminating sound bites that take fans inside the locker room and to the sideline.
"This is a big night for us," Manning said to the fans who attended the premier at the Regal Times Square Cinema. "Tonight (is) a great reminder – just some of the games early on in the season that we won, whether we were behind or just certain plays that triggered a win. And you think about how fortunate and how hard it is to win a Super Bowl, win a championship, how hard it is just to make the playoffs. When you see the film and you watch all these old games on certain plays that helped us win those games to even get to the playoffs, it's a great reminder of how special this is that we've got to win the championship this year."
"I'm very happy to be a part of it," Nicks said. "And it's great knowing that I'm part of this and catching the whole season from start to finish and getting it documented."
One of the DVD's most memorable scenes occurs later in the Super Bowl, when New England Coach Bill Belichick imploring his defensive backs to cover Nicks and Victor Cruz. "Make them throw to Manningham and (Bear) Pascoe," Belichick said. Moments later, Manningham made the biggest play of the Super Bowl, hauling in Manning's perfect pass and somehow keeping his feet inbounds for the 38-yard gain that started the Giants' game-winning drive.
So what does Manningham think about Belichick's late game instructions?
"Thank you. That's all. Thank you," Manningham said. "I appreciate it. I'm just trying to go out there and make a play, that's all. I don't really have too much to say."
Manningham, who had seen the DVD before the formal premier, said the opposing coach's words did not anger him.
"I know what I can do," Manningham said. "I know what I'm capable of doing. So it's cool. I'm glad he did that, thank you. I know what type of player I am.
"This year, it seemed like everybody needed three of four good receivers on their team. I feel like a lot of times where they could have taken Hakeem and Victor out, but I could have made plays. Or they could have taken me and Victor out, but Hakeem could have made plays. I feel like any of us can make a play at any time. You need a lot of good receivers these days."
Nicks, Manningham, Rolle and Pierre-Paul are enjoying their first offseason as NFL champions.
"It's been crazy," Rolle said. "It's been a lot of everything going on. But like I said, I wouldn't change it for the world. I think we definitely earned this privilege and I'm just blessed to be a part of this organization and achieve greatness."
Manning, who won his second Super Bowl MVP Award, has happily been down this road before, having led the Giants to victory over New England four years ago. And this time, the journey has taken a slightly different route.
"It's going well," Manning said. "I think it's a little different. Last time, it's the first time and everything is new and you're going through everything in New York City for the first time, a lot of excitement. You kind of want to take it all in and just soak it up and didn't want to ever leave town. I think this is a little different. I went out with my teammates and celebrated with them for a few days and it was kind of like, 'All right I need some rest and I'm tired and it's been a long season.' So I just want to get away for a little bit and just soak it all in and just get regrouped. This is really kind of the first time back in action in about a month. I'm excited about being here and seeing all the great plays throughout the whole season."
The Giants' offseason conditioning program begins on April 16, but Manning has already done some preliminary work in preparation for the 2012 season.
"I started working out last week," Manning said. "So I took about three weeks off, didn't do a whole lot, but little workouts here and there just to stay active. But I started picking it back up last week and getting back into the flow of things."
*The players in attendance were asked about the recent disclosure that the New Orleans Saints' defense had a bounty system in which players were paid bonuses for knocking opposing offensive players out of games. Manning spoke out forcefully against that kind of extracurricular activity.
"Obviously, I know the importance of a defense trying to get to the quarterback, get sacks, get hits on the quarterback," Manning said. "That's part of the game, and I hear what coach (Tom) Coughlin tells our defense about getting hits, and I'm kind of sitting there, I say I know the opposing teams are saying the same thing about me. But when you start talking about injuring guys and carting them off and trying to possibly end their season or career, that's not what this game's about. I think we need to have more respect for the game than that and it can't be a part of football."
When the Giants lost to the Saints in New Orleans on Nov. 28, 49-24, Nicks was briefly knocked out of the game after suffering a rib contusion when he absorbed a brutal hit from safety is a Abdul-Quddus. When he reviewed the game tape, Nicks though Abdul-Quddus celebrated a little to joyfully.
"I remember. I take notes," Nicks said. "The way he was celebrating, you would probably think that (the Saints were trying to hurt him) regardless. But I came back in the game, took a couple plays off, came back in the game. It was just a hit."
But Nicks does not think he was targeted solely because the Saints had a bounty system.
"It's just part of the game," he said. "He got a good shot on me. It wasn't the last time I got hit that hard. I took one in the Super Bowl, too. So it's just part of the game, you're going to get hit. You can't be scared to get hit.
"Playing professional football, you know you're going to take a hit. Some dudes thrive off big hits like that and gets the momentum changed, gets the momentum going. If they're going to do it, I don't think that's going to change in this game. It's just a matter of us, you've got to have heart. They're going to hit, get back up."
Hicks didn't seem concerned that some teams might intentionally try to hurt opposing players.
"I'm not really worried about that," Nicks said. "It's going to take a lot to keep me down, personally. So just bring it every time."
An NFL investigation has revealed that as many as 27 current and former Saints players might be involved in a bounty system orchestrated by then defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who recently assumed the same position with the St. Louis Rams. Linebacker Jonathan Vilma reportedly offered $10,000 to any teammate who knocked Minnesota quarterback Brett Favre out of the 2009 NFC Championship Game.
Rolle is a hard-hitting safety, but he is well-aware a line exists that can't be crossed.
"I've never been a part of that," he said. "It's kind of unfortunate that something like that has been brought upon this league, and I think the Saints are a dynamic franchise. And I think it's just unfortunate that they have to deal with those consequences. It doesn't really concern me. It has nothing to do with the Giants, the way we do things here at the Giants.
"It's just not good character. This is a very physical sport as it is. You never want to go out there with intention to actually injure another opponent. That's people's livelihood, and that's pretty much all I have to say about that."
Manning grew up in New Orleans rooting for the Saints, for whom his father played and became an iconic figure in the city. He doesn't recall being specifically targeted by the Saints. But he is adamant that any system in which players intentionally try to injure opponents must be eliminated.
"I don't remember a hit," Manning said. "And we've played them a few times over the years. I don't remember a specific thing that was dirty or illegal or somebody going low. But obviously it is a big deal what's going on. It's not good for football and can't be a part of football. So I know (Commissioner) Roger Goodell will do a good job figuring all this out and make sure this doesn't happen again."