JUDGE: Q&A with Kerry Collins

The New York Giants didn't just drop the ball last year. They dropped it again and again and again. Quarterback Kerry Collins led the way with 23 fumbles, and that sounds like a lot you're warm. It's an NFL record. Collins was dreadful, and his team wasn't much better losing 5 of their last 7 and missing the playoffs one year after they were in the Super Bowl. Now, Collins is back with a new contract, new teammates and a new outlook. We caught up with him to find out what's on his mind.

Q: Your offensive line is drastically different and remarkably inexperienced. How concerned are you?

A: I think they're going to be better than people think they're going to be. I like the guys we have up there. We've got guys who can play they're talented; they just don't have a lot of experience. They're a good bunch, they work hard and they have talent. So I think they're going to be better than what people think.

Q: Most guys don't like playing five pre-season games, but in this case it might help.

A: It can't hurt, I'll put it that way. They'll get used to me, too. I like to play with a good tempo and get in and out of the huddle. It's a quicker tempo in the game, and you have to be on top of that stuff.

Q: It was only 17 games ago that you were in the Super Bowl. Now, it seems as if all of America is down on the Giants. Why?

A: I don't know. I feel really good about the team we have. From an offensive standpoint, I look at our skill positions, and we're as good as we've ever been. You talk about experience and you talk about talent: Ike (Hilliard) and Amani (Toomer) are back; Tiki (Barber) and Ron Dayne. (Jeremy) Shockey's the only kid, but he's going to help ... and probably right away. I like the guys we have, and I feel I have a chance to play as well as I ever have. This is my third year in the offense, and I feel I have complete command of it. So I feel good about it from my vantage point.

Q: But doesn't it all come down to the offensive line?

A: I'm encouraged by what they're doing. There probably are going to be some growing pains, as there always is at that position. I have confidence in those guys. They're out to prove people wrong. They're getting it from all angles, and people are telling them how bad they're going to be. But I've never seen a group of offensive linemen work as hard as those guys are working. I'm not talking about just training camp; I'm talking about back in March. If they don't succeed it wont be for lack of effort.

Q: Why is New York the best place for you?

A: I love the organization. I love playing for Mr. (Wellington) Mara. I love playing for Ernie (Accorsi, general manager). I felt I built a good relationship with them and the community, and I feel I made my role here something special and pleasurable for me. I always said this is a place that has a lot of tradition and a lot of the things I like about playing football. I'm proud to be here. I'm proud to play in New York, and I'm proud to be a New York Giant. That's something I want to continue.

Q: Do you personally feel a sense of having to prove yourself over again?

A: That's never really been a big part of the way I approach the game. I approach the game from the simple standpoint that I want to be the best quarterback that I can be. You're going to have your detractors and supporters, and I've learned you can't hang on what the public perception is; you can't hang on what people are saying or not saying because you can't please everybody all the time. It's not going to happen. It's more of an intrinsic thing for me: I try to be the best quarterback that I can be; I try to be the best teammate that I can be; I try to be the best leader that I can be. All the other stuff is kind of frivolous for me. It doesn't mean a lot.

Q: Why all those fumbles last year?

A: You know, there were a lot of fumbles on snaps I don't know how many exactly but I think there were at least six or eight fumbles on snaps. And snaps sometimes become an afterthought. They're not an afterthought anymore. We're working on it, which means we're trying to get back to fundamentals. The other thing is pocket presence: keeping two hands on the ball until you're ready to throw; working the pocket and moving the pocket and knowing when to tuck it and just get what you can instead of trying to stay alive and make a play. There are a lot of things that go into it. You know, we didn't lose that many last year, which is good, but obviously it bothers me.
Aug. 6, 2002