Heisman Winner Faces Uncertain Role

Sitting at a table during team interviews, Ron Dayne seemed out of place.

Here was a Heisman Trophy winner, college football's all-time leading rusher and the New York Giants' first-round draft pick, talking with all of five reporters.

No crowd. One cameraman.

And this was Super Bowl week.

Dayne was readily accessible, which says a lot.

No one is expecting him to play a big role Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens. The halfback, who gained 770 yards and scored five touchdowns in his rookie season, has struggled down the stretch.

``It's been a long season,'' the pudgy 22-year-old said. ``I really didn't expect too much. I just wanted to come in and learn the game and just get better. Anything else I did was a plus.''

Dayne showed few flashes this season from his days at Wisconsin. His only 100-yard game was on Oct. 15 against Dallas; it was followed by a 93-yard effort against Philadelphia after the bye week.

He has broken the 80-yard mark once in the second half of the season.

During the seven-game winning streak that sent New York to the Super Bowl, Dayne carried 94 times for 266 yards, a 2.82 average, and one touchdown.

``I didn't really hit a wall because I split time with Tiki,'' Dayne said. ``You know you always want the ball more, but I just did what they wanted me to do to help. It was frustrating not getting the ball at first, but I see where they use me.''

Dayne, who carries around 250-plus pounds, is an inside runner. The strength of the Ravens' defense is their interior with tackles Tony Siragusa, Sam Adams and middle linebacker Ray Lewis.

Baltimore allowed an NFL record-low 970 yards rushing, or 60.6 yard per game, or 2.68 per carry.

``I'm not concerned,'' the soft-spoken Dayne said. ``We know they have a great defense, but we have a great defense we go against every day. Our defense only gave up one 100-yard rusher all year.''

The Ravens haven't given up one in 33 games.

``We are not going to concede that we can't run the ball against the Ravens' defense,'' Tiki Barber said. ``I think we are going to try. I looked at the Redskins' game because their offense is similar to ours. They kept pounding and eventually Stephen Davis broke one.''

Coach Jim Fassel, who insists his confidence in Dayne has not wavered, said the Giants can run if their linemen get to Lewis and block him.

``I'm going to go for him,'' Dayne said, referring to Lewis. ``I won't shy away from him. He'll probably be there every time anyway, so I'm going to have to go at him.'

That's if Dayne gets the ball. A big concern late in the season was his indecisiveness. Holes would be there and Dayne would hesitate. By the time he cut, the holes were closed.

``You have to be a pro about it and adjust with your surroundings,'' Dayne said. ``Just like coming out of high school, you're the man. Then you go to college and you have to adjust. So it's the same thing coming out of college. I was the man, and now I have to adjust.''

The adjustment in the Super Bowl for Dayne may be waiting for his number to be called.