NFL Giants: TE in middle of media frenzy
Jim Fassel, New York's coach, expects slip-ups.
By DAVE GOLDBERG
AP FOOTBALL WRITER
Jeremy Shockey didn't know his comments would make him the lead item on ESPN's "SportsCenter" and the talk of talk radio.
Drew Rosenhaus probably didn't, either. But he didn't seem particularly appalled by it -- any publicity, after all, is more exposure.
Rosenhaus is the agent to football players from Florida: Hurricanes, Gators, Seminoles and Dolphins, including Shockey, who played at Miami. Plenty of big contracts to go around. Plenty of cameras, too, and Rosenhaus never met one he didn't like.
And plenty of magazine covers for his clients.
"He told me he didn't want to do interviews, that he's not comfortable with them," Rosenhaus told ESPN on Friday, the day it was first reported Shockey referred to Bill Parcells as a "homo" in an interview to be published next week in New York magazine.
But Shockey will keep doing them.
What he said
Shockey was quoted as saying this: "Let's see how much Parcells wins this year. I'll make him pay when we play them. The homo."
Without the last two words, it was nothing but a macho football challenge. With them?
Shockey apologized for his comments on Saturday, insisting his words were in jest. But the outspoken tight end never mentioned Parcells directly in the apology, which came after a 30-minute meeting with Giants coach Jim Fassel.
Parcells' crime against Shockey appears to have been just being himself.
After Shockey's dominating performance in last season's Hall of Fame game in Canton, the Tuna said: "The way people are talking, they ought to keep him there. I mean, he played one quarter of an exhibition. What has he done yet?"
Classic Parcells, who always says that about rookies, including his own.
In 1990, Rodney Hampton, the Giants' first-round draft choice, ran more than 80 yards for a TD in his first exhibition game. When Parcells, then coaching New York, was asked by reporters about Hampton after the game, the coach replied:
"Hey fellas, don't put him in Canton yet. I saw a lot of guys missing tackles and they weren't the Bills' regulars."
Hampton remains the Giants' career rushing leader, but he's not going to Canton.
Shockey might. He demonstrated potential Hall of Fame credentials as a rookie.
But he could get hurt, or start dropping passes, or suffer any of the many misfortunes a cruel game can toss at its participants.
Right now, he's in the middle of another cruel game -- the media frenzy over a potential superstar in New York who is a lion on the field but an innocent off it.
Coach doesn't approve
"I have to continue to counsel him," Fassel said Friday, adding that neither he nor the team approves the use of bigoted expressions of the type his tight end uttered.
"Will there be a slip-up again? Probably. But he's too good of a guy to have himself portrayed this way. He doesn't have a bone in his body that wants to disrespect somebody. He's just being who he is, all the time, and he's got to learn how to handle questions from the media without going over the line."
Said Rosenhaus: "That particular term, if he did use it, was purely in jest with some of his friends. I think the writer made an innocent mistake."
Shockey vowed to try to avoid any future controversy.
"I am going to be as plain as possible," Shockey said. "You'll probably never hear me say an outrageous thing ever again."
Fassel, in his seventh year as Giants coach, knows big-city media. The press fires Fassel every season, then canonizes him when the team turns around in December.
Shockey has had a major media following in Miami and New York, but has no media savvy or aspirations.
Last summer, when he was being compared to Mark Bavaro, the Giants' star tight end of Parcells' championship teams, Bavaro visited the team's training camp, talking with Shockey and then the media.
When Shockey saw reporters waiting, he headed in the opposite direction before he was dragged back by team officials for a few uninteresting words.
Shockey backed up his potential with an All-Pro season that helped propel his team into the playoffs. It wasn't just his play but his in-your-face style that turned on players and fans alike. His helmet seemed to fly off at opportune moments, exposing his waving blond mane.
In the final regular-season game, when he wrestled the ball from Philadelphia safety Brian Dawkins for the touchdown that helped clinch a playoff spot, Shockey couldn't help jumping up and jawing at Dawkins afterward. The Giants Stadium crowd loved it and so did television -- the replay was shown endlessly.
But even on the field, Shockey wasn't perfect.
The Giants' loss of a 24-point lead in their playoff game in San Francisco is blamed on a special teams fiasco and a mistake by officials. As important -- and forgotten -- is that Shockey dropped a pass in the end zone that probably would have rendered moot what happened afterward.
Shockey probably doesn't understand the latest hullabaloo. He's just a country boy from Oklahoma in the nation's largest media market, and his media sessions last season showed it.