Shock to the System

Possible scenario: There are three kids standing behind a fence, all wide-eyed and eager to get Jeremy Shockey to sign. One kid is wearing Shockey's No. 80 jersey, another has on a Kerry Collins No. 5, and the third wears a Michael Strahan No. 92.

Who gets the first autograph?

"I'll probably sign the 'five' first, guaranteed," Shockey said yesterday.

Smart move.

Shockey knows most everything he does starts with Collins' ability to deliver the ball to him, and as seamless as the quarterback-tight end relationship seemed to knit together a year ago, it's not quite where Shockey wants it to be. The Giants have been at practice in training camp for only two days, yet Amani Toomer has produced a handful of spectacular catches. He was at it again yesterday morning with an outstretched grab to beat cornerback William Peterson.

Toomer has been so good coach Jim Fassel pulled him aside and jokingly said, "Why didn't you play like that my first two years here? It would have made my job a lot easier."

As sensational as Shockey was as a rookie, he senses that Toomer and Collins share a chemistry that is special. Heading into his second season, Shockey wants in as well.

"We've only been here a couple of days, but Kerry, you see how good he is, how he throws the ball, his timing," Shockey said. "I want to have the same timing as him and Amani. You see how every time, he knows where the defender is, he's putting the ball away, Amani's making great catches. That's something I love watching and I know the coaches are just loving that. It's all about timing, it's all about your personnel, and Kerry and Amani probably are the best 1-2 punch ever."

Reaching that next level should come quickly for Shockey. The night of the first practice, Shockey said he spent much of the time going over plays in his head, and tight ends coach Mike Pope continues to harp on the most minute details and specific techniques to help shake Shockey loose from defenders.

Off the field, Shockey is adjusting to life as the absolute center of the Giants' orbit. Champion autograph provider and former glamour boy Jason Sehorn is gone, and Shockey has easily replaced him at camp as the most sought-after player. Fans are attracted to him with a magnetic pull, and as many times as he signs his name, even more fans are turned away because of the sheer magnitude of the demands.

"I get the kids," Shockey said. "I like getting the kids first. I don't like the older people pushing 'em around. Today some guy almost killed a girl, going over to get to me!"

What Shockey does, he does in his own way.

"The Giants always give me a hard time about not doing charity [work]," he said. "I may not do it on their terms, but I do it on my terms."

Grudgingly, Shockey is getting better (a relative term) at handling the attention that could spiral out of control if he allowed it to do so. The Giants pick and choose as best they can, but requests for interviews are endless, and Shockey certainly is not someone with boundless patience.

"There's tons of people wanting to come back to my hometown [Ada, Okla.]," he said. "Where'd you come from? They want to meet my friends. I don't want everybody to know what happened and who I hung out with, who cut my hair. It's not hard for me, 'cause I can just say no. Half the time I do say no."
July 27,03