Collins bids farewell to teammates

Kerry Collins will pay one more visit to Giants Stadium in the coming days, just to clear out his locker and say some final goodbyes.

When he left after a meeting with general manager Ernie Accorsi yesterday, the only item he took with him was his baby daughter’s picture. The Collins family had officially left the building, only moments after the Giants’ quarterback of the last five seasons learned he’d likely become an ex-Giant in the next day or so.

And the only people he’d bade farewell to were the equipment managers and trainers.

So, barring a dramatic shift that keeps him here, there will be one more visit.

“There’s a lot of guys in that locker room that I’m close to that I went to war with and have a lot of respect for,” Collins said. “Guys I’d say I’m proud to play with. I’d like to be able to say my goodbyes to them as well.”

Those goodbyes became necessary when Collins went to Accorsi and asked him to lay out his contract options. It became obvious as soon as the Giants traded for Ole Miss stud Eli Manning Saturday that the salary cap would not accommodate two lofty salaries at quarterback.

With Manning expected to make approximately $16 million in signing bonus alone, Collins would have to do something about a $7 million base salary and $8.95 million salary cap number.

Accorsi said things could have been done to keep Collins’ numbers intact, and he never asked Collins for an outright paycut. A small extension turning part of the base salary into prorated signing bonus, and then voiding itself after Collins achieved minimal statistics, was offered.

But Collins, poised to walk away from it all because NFL contracts are not guaranteed, said he didn’t want his contract altered. In truth, there was little incentive outside the financial rewards to do that, given the plan to start Manning as soon as possible.

“I’m not a mathlete,” Collins said. “But I can put two and two together real quick.”

And the Giants were not eager to rework as many as five other contracts to clear space for both quarterbacks.

“I think they genuinely wanted to try to keep me,” Collins said. “What role I’d be in, I don’t know. It just wasn’t something I was interested in doing.”

Accorsi said the Giants wouldn’t cut him immediately, but wouldn’t wait more than a couple of days to do it. They have already started the process of finding a moderately-priced veteran, reportedly working out New England backup Damon Huard yesterday. And they will field trade offers, though Collins’ salary makes that unlikely. They could wait for the cuts that inevitably come after June 1, which might include a name like Kurt Warner or Tim Couch.

Accorsi said he’s in no rush to find someone, especially since the team already has veteran Jesse Palmer and first-year player Ryan Van Dyke under contract. They also signed one of the better-rated but undrafted rookies, possibly Kentucky’s 6-foot-3, 280-pound Jared Lorenzen.

“Just to get it resolved and pass up somebody who might become available later, I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” Accorsi said.

Collins and agent David Dunn have been given permission to search for a new employer. He could well land in Baltimore, where his Giants tutor, ex-coach Jim Fassel, is now quarterbacks coach. He could then wage a spirited competition with young starter Kyle Boller.

As for his current bosses, Collins eventually made phone contact with co-owner Wellington Mara. It was Mara who, in 1999, okayed the move that pulled Collins off the scrap heap after alcohol all but ruined his career.

“I told him it was an honor to play for him,” Collins said. “It was an opportunity I certainly appreciated and that I hoped he felt positive toward me.”

Mara did on a day that wasn’t so easy for the 87-year-old patriarch.

“He made it easy,” Mara said. “He just said ‘Thank you for everything the Giants have done for me.’ And I told him it was an honor to have him play here.”

Though there is a slim chance Collins could reverse himself, negotiate an adjustment, and stay, he’ll likely leave thinking that all worked out for the best. Quarterback controversies tear at team chemistry, and Collins has many supporters inside the Giants’ locker room.

“I feel like at times, I’ve been the glue that held this team together,” he said. “We’ve gone through some rough stretches. We’ve gone through some great stretches. I wanted to be a reliable quarterback who gave them a chance to win on Sundays, and I think I accomplished that.

“(Staying) would have made things very awkward for Eli and I. There’s quite a debate on whether they want him playing or not. All in all, in fairness to my history here, it’s something I wasn’t interested in doing.”

So he will take one last visit to Giants Stadium, probably in a day or two, to clear out his locker and say so long.

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