Man­ning ex­cited to lead Gi­ants into game against Cowboys

Woonsocket Call - - Sports - By TOM CANAVAN As­so­ci­ated Press

EAST RUTHER­FORD, N.J. — Two-time Su­per Bowl MVP Eli Man­ning is back as the New York Gi­ants' start­ing quar­ter­back.

A week af­ter be­ing benched by for­mer coach Ben McAdoo, Man­ning was put back into the start­ing lineup for Sun­day's game against the Dal­las Cowboys by in­terim coach Steve Spag­n­uolo.

“My gut right now says Eli should be the starter,” Spag­n­uolo said in ex­plain­ing the move af­ter prac­tice Wed­nes­day.

The 36-year-old Man­ning was told of the de­ci­sion on Tues­day. He had walked into Spag­n­uolo's of­fice on Mon­day af­ter McAdoo was fired and told the for­mer defensive co­or­di­na­tor that he wanted to start again.

“It's im­por­tant to play, that's what I love to do,” Man­ning said af­ter prac­tice. “I love to play quar­ter­back and I love to play quar­ter­back for the New York Gi­ants. So that's what I will work on.”

Man­ning had started 210 con­sec­u­tive games over the past 13-plus sea­sons un­til be­ing re­placed by Geno Smith against Oakland last week. The streak was the sec­ond-long­est in NFL his­tory, only sur­passed by Brett Favre (297).

The first hint of the change back to Man­ning came early in prac­tice when he took the first snap with the of­fense.

Of course, some of the of­fen­sive line­men ap­peared to tease him as he en­tered the hud­dle.

“We rein­tro­duced our­selves to him, es­pe­cially me,” said tackle Justin Pugh. “I have been out for a lit­tle while (three weeks) and I wanted to let him know who I was, even though we shared the scout team hud­dle last week. It was good to see 10 in there. He has been my quar­ter­back ever since I have been in the league.”

The bench­ing of Man­ning last week up­set the quar­ter­back and an­gered Gi­ants fans. Com­bined with the team's 2-10 record and other prob­lems, it led co-own­ers John Mara and Steve Tisch to fire McAdoo and general man­ager Jerry Reese on Mon­day.

“I think you all know how I feel about Eli,” Spag­n­uolo said. “What hap­pened, hap­pened. In the long run, hope­fully it's a re­ally good thing. He walked in my of­fice, and as a coach you want ev­ery player to walk into your of­fice with the in­tent and de­ter- mi­na­tion he had.”

When McAdoo benched Man­ning, he said the team needed to eval­u­ate Smith and rookie Davis Webb in the fi­nal month of the sea­son so it could head into the off­sea­son with a clearer plan about the quar­ter­backs.

Spag­n­uolo was not sure whether the eval­u­a­tion would be done, adding his goal is to win games. He said that Man­ning gives the Gi­ants the best chance to do that.

Smith will be the backup quar­ter­back, Spag­n­uolo said, adding that Webb's work­load in prac­tice has in­creased in re­cent weeks.

Spag­n­uolo had a long meet­ing with Smith and un­der­stood his dis­ap­point­ment at los­ing the start­ing job through no fault of his own. Spag­n­uolo added he was im­pressed with Smith's pro­fes­sion­al­ism in han­dling the sit­u­a­tion.

“I am just go­ing to con­tinue to be the same guy, con­tinue to sup­port my guys, my team­mates,” said Smith, a for­mer Jet who was signed as a free agent in the off­sea­son. “I am go­ing to con­tinue to be pre­pared. You never know what will hap­pen.”

Smith com­pleted 21 of 34 passes for 212 yards and a touch­down. He also lost two fum­bles af­ter be­ing sacked in the 24-17 loss to the Raiders.

“I feel bad for Geno, too,” Pugh said. “He didn't ask to be put in this sit­u­a­tion. A lot of dis­re­spect and hate were thrown his way. It's just un­called for. I get that ev­ery­one wants to sup­port Eli, but by sup­port­ing one man and putting an­other down is not the way to do it.”

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