Collins handles media spotlight

When the New York Giants gambled a $5 million signing bonus on troubled quarterback Kerry Collins earlier this year, it seemed like an odd fit for a player who was tagged a drunk, a racist and a quitter last year.

A player carrying that much baggage could have problems dealing with the media spotlight in the nation's largest city.

Collins, though, had no problems being under the microscope at minicamp a week ago. He said all the right things, admitted alcohol had been too much a part of his life and said he figured it'd take time to get a rapport with his new teammates.

"The guys are still feeling me out. I'd be naive to think it would all happen overnight and we're going to become best buds," he said.

For their part, Collins' teammates seemed to be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Running back Tiki Barber admitted he expected Collins to be something of a jerk, but said he hadn't been one in the Giants camp.

"Until he proves me wrong, I'm going to keep believing in what I see," Barber said.

Collins also gave a candid interview to the New York Times in which he talked about his time in a rehab clinic and discussed his teen years when his life was more Todd Marinovich than "Father Knows Best." Marinovich, the former Raider, had to deal with a father who pushed him into sports.

practice So did Collins. His father was an assistant coach at his high school in Lebanon, Pa., when he got into an argument with the head coach after Collins, then 14, broke his ankle in two places running a keeper during an intense scrimmage.

Collins' father decided to move the family 40 miles to a different high school. When his wife objected, the family split up and Collins and his father moved in a one-bedroom apartment. His parents later divorced.

For Collins, the message was obvious. "It was worth it to break up the family to become a top-notch athlete. Kerry the quarterback mattered more than Kerry the person."

One of his high school teachers, Barb Heckman, said: "You could see he lacked a woman's influence in his life. There are some things only a mother can give."

Collins did become a top-notch athlete, leading Penn State to an unbeaten season, becoming a first-round draft choice and taking the Carolina Panthers to the National Football Conference title game in his second season.

He then flamed out, leaving Carolina with the reputation of being a quitter after a fateful meeting with former coach Dom Capers last year. He then bombed in New Orleans.

When Collins was asked if breaking up his family was worth it, he paused and said, "No." He added: "But you have to get past all that and say that's the way it was. Where am I now?"

practice Where he is now is trying to put his life -- he's mending fences with his parents -- and his career together again.

His college coach, Joe Paterno, still backs him and suggests that maybe Collins and Capers, now the Jacksonville defensive coordinator, weren't a good fit.

"I'm not so sure he was happy in that area (Carolina)," Paterno said. "There may have been some friction between (general manager) Bill Polian, who believed very strongly in him, and maybe some other people in the organization. Once Bill left, it seemed some of his problems started."

Now he has a coach, Jim Fassel, noted for developing quarterbacks. He's starting off as the backup to Kent Graham. This may be his last chance, but he seems to have taken a good first step.

Regardless of how it turns out, his life could be one of those TV movies of the week.