September 2, 2002

How do you feel about starting off the season in New York?

We are all excited and mindful of what this time of year represents. I think it is a positive thing for this city and a positive thing for this area and I think we are all excited. I think itís going to be a good game with all of the events that they have scheduled and are taking place. I think it is going to be great for the area.

The 49ers are a tough team to face in the first game, right?

The 49ers are a tough team and they had it going last year and certainly this is going to be a big test for us right off the bat. But I feel good about the guys on this year and the camp that they have had. But obviously this is a good team coming in here.

What have you seen out of Ike and Amani that make you think that they are primed for big years?

I think Ike has matured another year, from a guy who is already very intelligent as a football player. Heís probably got a little something to prove and I think he is playing that way. But his ability to play the game is really good. And as far as Amani, heís had as good of a camp as I have seen him have since Iíve been here. He looks good. He lost a few pounds. He is getting off of the ball quicker. He is coming in and out of his routes as well as he ever has. Heís playing as well as I have seen him. He is running routes as well as I have seen him.

Why should people believe in this team this year?

Because of the kind of guys we have on this team. The attitude. We will fight to the death. We have that kind of group here. Iím enjoying playing with this group probably more that any other group that I have been around. They make it fun. We have a lot of great personalities on this team. We got a lot of guys who love to play and who love to play hard. And thatís all fine and good, but at some point you have to draw the line and then youíve got to win football games. But I am excited to play with these guys. I feel a lot of positives that are surrounding this team right now.

What about the team speed and the offense?

I think we certainly expect more out of ourselves offensively than we have at any other time. We have some veteran guys who have been around here for awhile. We have Tiki, myself, Amani, Luke, DustyÖguys that are high picks and who we should expect to play well. Guys that were brought in here for a reason and that was to be a potent offense. Weíve shown glimpses at times, but we havenít gotten there. Weíre working hard. We are continuing to strive to be better than we were last year and better than we were two years ago. I definitely think that we may have taken a step backwards last year. But I think weíll all come back this year and be better than we were last year.

Does part of you want to be a fan and see what Michael Strahan can do for an encore this year?

Oh sure. Heís a great player. Iím happy that he is on my team. That is basically the bottom line. I hope he has another great year. To think that heís going to break it again, thatís tough. That might be a little bit unreasonable. Heís going to have his numbers and he is going to be a force again this year, like he has been all of his career.

Is he the type of player you would be thinking about before the game, if you had to go against him?

I can only speak for myself, but I never think about a guy before a game. I have confidence in the guys up front and what they can do. Certainly, Mike has proven he can be a game-breaker. He showed that last year and time and time again throughout his career.

Are the expectations for Jeremy Shockey too high?

Yeah, I think they are. I think we all might be guilty of that, including myself. Heís excitable. But he is learning a offense and heís making mistakes; we all are making mistakes. But he is a young guy. He is still learning things. His talent is not the question. Itís allowing him to utilize his talents to the best of his abilities. When you think about a lot of things and arenít sure about an assignment here or there, that takes away from your talent. But heís ahead of where a rookie should be, but he is still a rookie and therefore is going to make mistakes. So, I think he is going to make his plays, but it is unrealistic to think we can just throw everything at him and he is just going to take everything in, like he is a seasoned veteran. But his play-making ability is there and certainly he is going to get the ball.

Do you see his presence opening up things for other receivers?

Itís probably a little bit too early for that. We are trying to find his niche. We will find one, but those are things that get worked out through time. Weíll see. We donít know how teams are going to play us. Thatís advantage Giants. Are they going to worry about him more? These are all questions that will kind of get answered with time. So, well see how it all plays out, but itís nice to have someone that can create that kind of balance that we have been lacking.

The fact that there are other players at skill positions that are primed for big seasons are surrounding Shockey.

Oh absolutely, no question. I think weíll be selective with how we use him because we do have other weapons. We do have some guys on the outside that can play. So itís hard to talk about right now. These are the types of things that kind of get worked out through the course of a few games, a season, a half-season, whatever. And I think a big part of a good offense is everyone knowing their roles. We are still trying to figure that out a little bit. We know what Amaniís role is. We know what Ikeís is. We donít know what Jeremyís is yet. But certainly that is a positive thing. So even though we donít have it worked out right now, we have it worked out and it should be a positive thing for us.

Is it a little bit of an adjustment to go back to throwing to a tight end?

No, not really. Maybe only because it has been a few years. I get excited about have a guy like Jeremy around here. But, I feel like I have kind of jumped right back into it. To this point, only being training camp, a couple of mini-camps and the offseason, I feel like I am developing a good rapport with him. I have had tight ends in a lot of different places. At some point, you learn as a quarterback, that the tight end is the guy that will get open for you. And the tight end will be that guy that you look for when everything else kind of breaks down. We talk about that and we are developing that kind of relationship that I think is good and healthy for both of it.

RE: the offensive line.

I am encouraged by what I have seen in those guys. They have really come together. They are smart, intelligent guys.

At times you seem defensive when people refer to your last season as a bad season.

I donít think I have been defensive. Maybe I am an optimist. I tend to see the positives in things and I think there were positives last year. There is no question about it. There were times last year when I the ball as well as I ever have. And also I made some mistakes. There were fumbles. I know I canít put the ball on the ground that much. I like the way I came back in games last year. I like some of the comebacks we had. I tend to look at the glass as half full and I tend to see the positives, but I am realistic too. I donít ignore the bad things, but there were a lot of things I felt good about last season.

Do you feel ready to engage in shootouts this year?

I think we definitely have more ability to score points than we ever have. With the addition, being a year older and having another year of experience from a lot of guys, from Ike, Amani and of the skill guys who touch it, I definitely think that we have more ability to score. We need to score more points than we did last year. That was a big problem for us last year and it is definitely something we need to be better at.

What gives you the belief that you can make the next step towards elite status?

I feel as though the experience that I have gotten playing in this league, my maturity as a person, it has all come together. I feel I have a better grasp on this game and my role in this game than I ever have. I feel like I know what it takes to be a good quarterback. I feel like I know what it takes for us to be a good football team. And that is half the battle as far as I am concerned.

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