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QB Manning returns to practice


The most famous stomach bug in recent Giants history has been eradicated and with it, so have the fears anyone might have had that the team would be without its most valuable player for the NFC Championship Game.

Eli Manning returned to work today and looked and performed as if he was perfectly healthy – which he said he was a day after leaving the Timex Performance Center yesterday with a stomach disorder.

"I'm 100 percent," Manning said. "I had a full practice today, I did everything, took every rep. I feel good. Yesterday, I at least got to be here and getting into all the meetings and go through the walkthrough. I didn't take any live reps, but I know the game plan, I know what's going on. The arm felt good today, it felt fresh, and it (the ball) was coming out good."

Manning was on the field early in practice yesterday but did not participate in the team portion – the first time in memory he wasn't on the field to take the offensive snaps.

"I just woke up not feeling well and just tried to tough it out through meetings and everything and did fine," Manning said. "Once we got out to practice, it just wasn't going well. So I just kind of tried to be smart and just say hopefully this will be a 24-hour bug. I came back in and got some fluids and just tried to make sure I didn't make it worse. I'm just fortunate this happened on a Wednesday and not later in the week."

To his teammates and coaches, Manning looked perfectly normal – in more ways than one.

"He looked good," Coach Tom Coughlin said. "He came back and he actually texted us last night and said he felt better. When he got to work today he had a nice breakfast and seemed to do fine. I am sure he is not quite himself, but almost."

"He took great offense when I said he still looked pale to me," offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride said. "He said, 'It's the winter, coach. Of course I look pale.'"

Regarding Manning's work, Gilbride said, "We did everything with him. We maybe slowed down a couple of the drills in between our work sessions where the defense is up and normally we're doing a lot of drills. We did a couple. We didn't do quite as many, but for the most part he participated in everything. He did everything that we normally do."

"Obviously, you're going to get millions of questions about that, but he looked great," tackle David Diehl said. "He was ready to go. It's one of those things that's been going around, guys sick and stuff - you're just glad he's back out here ready to go. We're not surprised, we're sure he was breaking down film as he was laying there resting, getting ready for today. We know that he's going do everything he can to be prepared for this one and he's going to be ready to go."

Although little doubt existed that Manning would return today – and none that he would be ready to face the San Francisco 49ers Sunday in Candlestick Park – the bug was big news. A photo of Manning photo shopped to make it look as if he was lying in bed, with the headline "Big Flu" was the lead story in the Daily News.

Of course, Manning ignored the outside world's reaction to his upset stomach.

"I wasn't watching much TV yesterday, so I didn't see the attention it was getting," he said. "But obviously, when you get into big games like this, any little thing that pops up, people are going to make a big deal about. I'm glad we can put it behind us now and just focus on the game."

*The Giants seem unanimously unconcerned about the possibility of playing in rain or on a wet field Sunday. The forecast in San Francisco calls for rain through tomorrow night, with showers possible Saturday and Sunday.

"We never really change our approach according to the weather, anyway," running back Brandon Jacobs said. "I don't think it's going to stop us from doing what we want to do. The weather is the weather. It's going to out there for them, too. It's not like their side is going to be sunny and dry. We all, we'll both be playing in it. The men who want it the most will come out with it."

"I think I'm fine throwing it in the rain," Manning said. "It's not something I worry about. I've had success throwing it in rain games. I don't know what my numbers are. If it comes to it and it's going to be a wet game, I always felt the offense has an advantage throwing the ball, especially. The receivers have an advantage when the ground is wet because they know where they're going and what they're doing. They should be able to come out of their breaks a little bit better. We shouldn't be the ones slipping, it's usually the defensive side that slips."

The Giants' defenders aren't worried about precipitation.

"We have to be aware of what shoes to wear," cornerback Corey Webster said. "I think they are a great running football team, so with a wet football field, they will do that more but we still have to stop the run and hopefully we put them in different situations. When they are in those long yardage situations, we have to stop it as well."

Defensive coordinator Perry Fewell perhaps best captured the team's attitude regarding the weather.

"It doesn't matter," Fewell said. "Because it's the championship game, it doesn't matter. You fight all year to get here. It can snow, it can hail, it can rain, it can do whatever it wants to do. We're going to be there and we're going to be ready to play."

*Manning's return was the only change on the Giants' injury report. Ahmad Bradshaw (foot) did not practice, but is expected to work tomorrow, as he usually does on Friday. Defensive ends Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee) and Justin Tuck (shoulder), linebacker Mark Herzlich (ankle) and Webster (hamstring) were limited.

*A trio of former Giants representing each of their Super Bowl championship teams – Mark Bavaro, Michael Strahan and Rich Seubert - will serve as honorary captains for the NFC Championship Game.

Bavaro, the tight end who was inducted into the Giants Ring of Honor last month, played for the 1986 and 1990 Giants, who won Super Bowls XXI and XXV, respectively.

Bavaro played two unforgettable games in Candlestick Park.

The Giants played there on Monday night, Dec. 1, 1986, and trailed at halftime, 17-0. On the second play of the third quarter – a second-and-10 from the Giants' 49-yard line – Bavaro caught a 10-yard curl from Phil Simms and headed up the field. Six 49ers made contact with Bavaro, but he kept his legs churning. As the defenders kept sliding off him, Bavaro continued to gain ground. When the convoy finally forced him to the ground, Bavaro had gained 31 yards to the Niners' 18.

The play ignited the Giants, who scored on that possession and the next two and won the game, 21-17.

Four years later, Bavaro played in the NFC Championship Game against the Niners in Candlestick. He tied Mark Ingram for the team lead with five receptions, for 54 yards. His longest catch was a 19-yarder from Jeff Hostetler with two minutes remaining that opened the drive that led to Matt Bahr's game-winning field goal as time expired. Final: Giants 15, Niners 13.

Strahan, the Giants' career sacks leader (141.1) and the NFL single-season record-holder (22.5 in 2001), was a captain on the Giants team that won Super Bowl XLII four years ago.

Seubert, the starting left guard on that team, did not play this season after dislocating his knee in the 2010 season finale in Washington. He has not ruled out returning to the field. Seubert and his family recently moved to California.

Like Strahan, Seubert played in the Giants' last playoff game in Candlestick Park on Jan. 3, 2002. When the Giants' game-winning field goal attempt broke down because of a poor snap, Seubert, who was an eligible receiver, ran down the field and would have been in position to catch Matt Allen's desperation pass had he not been interfered with by Chike Okeafor. No penalty was called, though the NFL said the next day one should have. 

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