Can it be that Kerry Collins is entering his fifth season with the Giants? Apparently so, because the New York quarterback is stealthily moving up the franchise's all-time passing charts. He's already thrown more passes and logged more completions than anybody but Phil Simms and Charlie Conerly, and he ranks fourth and fifth, respectively, in yards (13,765) and touchdowns (68). Guess time flies when you're being underrated. Again, you may not have noticed, but Collins is coming off a career year in which he had personal highs in completions (335), yards (4,073), percentage (61.5) and quarterback rating (85.4). Not many people think of him as one of the game's best quarterbacks, but the facts say he is. And now, at the age of 30, in the prime of his career, he leads an explosive offense that is positively un-Giants-like. SI.com NFL writer Don Banks caught up with Collins on Friday, as the Giants opened their 2003 training camp in Albany, N.Y.
SI.com: This team seems to have a quiet confidence about what it can achieve this season. Is that by design?
KC: I think that's the way we need to be, because a lot of people are telling us how we good we are right now and how good we can be. We need to guard against getting fat heads, I think. That's the most important thing for us. To keep the right attitude, keep a workmanlike attitude.
SI.com: Isn't this the first time in many years that the Giants' offense reports to camp being talked about more than the Giants' defense?
KC: I think with our maturity and our progression, we're probably as good as we've ever been. There's no question this is the most talented offense we've ever brought to camp. And talent is one thing, but experience is critical, too, and we're the most experienced Giants offense I've been on. And that includes myself, Amani [Toomer] and Ike [Hilliard] and guys like that. I mean, we've got some years under our belts now. So all those things will contribute to us playing well.
SI.com: Not to add to the hype, but a lot of people say Jeremy Shockey is the X factor, the player who allows this offense to do so much because people have to account for him. Is that overstated?
KC: I think it gets overstated, but there's a lot of truth to it, too. With his speed and his ability to work in space, it can put pressure on defenses. They have to account for him. He's a legitimate threat every time he steps up to the line of scrimmage. The more you can give a defense to account for, the better off you're going to be as an offense.
SI.com: Can you use Shockey in even more varied ways this season?
KC: I think we started to use him in some pretty good ways last year. We tried to single him up a little bit, tried to move him around. I think we'll do more of the same this season.
SI.com: Is your comfort zone as high as it has been in your nine-year NFL career?
KC: Oh yeah, definitely. I just don't worry about things like I used to. I'm confident enough to feel like I'm going to play well, and in this league that's half the battle. My personal life is better than it has ever been, so there are no worries for me.
SI.com: Do you use the playoff collapse against San Francisco as motivation, or do you try to wipe it out of your mind?
KC: You don't stick your head in the sand. It happened. But at the same time, you don't dwell on it. It's a different team and a different year, and you've got to be able to move on. And I think we have. As long as we learn a lesson from that game.
SI.com: Still, do you ever see that snap dribbling back to the holder in the quiet moments of the day or night?
KC: Yeah, sometimes. But it's part of the game. Until we play another game, that will be the last game we have to look back on. But I try to look at the positives that came out of the last part of the season, and I think there were a lot of them for us.
SI.com: This offense hung up some gaudy numbers late last year. Do you have more ways to beat a defense than you've ever had?
KC: I think we present more problems for defenses now than we ever have.
SI.com: Does the right side of the offensive line concern you, given that you lost your starting guard and tackle?
KC: It's a little bit of a question mark, but that's not to say it won't get figured out before training camp's over.
SI.com: Will you compensate for that side of the line in your play calls?
KC: Well, you can't say we're just going to run on half the field. You can't do that. At some point, you have to go over there. I have confidence in them. I think those guys will step up.