When the Giants closed a deal with QB Kerry Collins last month, the possibility of locker-room dissension became the story within the story. Considering Collins' checkered past, there was a fear that the offseason's most controversial free-agent acquisition would not be happily accepted by his new teammates. Although his transition has generally been smooth - thanks largely in part to a terrific personal PR campaign launched by Collins within the locker room - signs of such possibilities have appeared.
For example, Collins is currently inhabiting his third locker as a result of bickering by some players who didn't want the $16.9 million passer getting dressed and undressed near them. In fact, one player went as far as removing Collins' nameplate and belongings from his second locale and moved him to another wall of the locker room. While both Collins and the team's front office are aware of these situations, both previously prepared themselves for such bumps in the road.
"We knew there would be adjustments,because it was a high-profile signing" GM Ernie Accorsi told the Post. " Free agency changes the world. Things like this used to happen only with draft choices, especially the first-rounders who made more than the veterans. In free agency, if you bring a player in at big money, he has an adjustment period. When we signed Kerry, we knew he'd have to win his spurs."
The locker switches aren't the only foreshadowing signs of a possible quarterback split in the future. After catching passes from Collins following a recent workout, one Giant player told the Post he felt guilt-stricken when he entered the locker room and saw incumbent starting QB Kent Graham.
"It sort of made me feel like I was cheating on him," said the player. "It's really weird. I know some of the other guys feel this way, too. I almost felt like I was cheating on my prom date." When asked for his take on whether or not he sees a situation brewing where players are going to have to choose between the two passers, Graham insisted the word "controversy" be subtracted from "quarterback controversy."
"I've been involved with really bad situations in the past and this is not one of them," said Graham. "I had a difficult situation between me and another quarterback before, and before that I saw how destructive it could be to the locker room when Phil [Simms] and Hoss [Jeff Hostetler] went through their time. This is nowhere near that. "I really, really appreciate that guys think that much of me. It makes me feel great, but there's nothing to feel guilty about. I truly have no problem with him at all."
Collins deserves credit for helping to defuse a situation that could have been much worse than a few locker changes and some guilty consciences. From the time he arrived, the former first-round pick has attempted to win his teammates with phone calls, notes and interesting greetings. For example, following a recent article in which LT Roman Oben was quoted as saying Collins deserved a second chance, the quarterback left a note in Oben's locker thanking him for his pleasantries.
Collins also called several of the team's leaders shortly after agreeing to a deal with the Giants with the hopes of early introductions. When meeting some players for the first time, Collins has been overly indulging with compliments for his new teammates. Still, until Collins dazzles his new teammates on the field, the aforementioned fears won't be laid to rest.