EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -Winning the Super Bowl didn't remove the chip on the New York Giants' shoulder. It just made it bigger.
Since their stunning win over the previously unbeaten New England Patriots in February, the players have paraded down the Canyon of Heroes in New York City, visited the White House and been handed the so-called ``10-table'' championship rings.
They have also heard from the doubters with a variety of theories on why they won't repeat:
-There is the history theory. The Giants have failed to make the playoffs following each of their three previous Super Bowl appearances (1987, '91 and 2001.)
-The missing in action theory. How can Eli Manning and company repeat following the retirement of seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Strahan and the trade of disgruntled, four-time Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey to the New Orleans Saints?
-The one that upsets them the most is the fluke theory, which is self explanatory.
The Giants (14-6) were not the NFL's best team until everything fell into place in the postseason, and they became only the sixth non-division winner to capture the title.
Think of everything that happened in January and February. There was the upset of the Cowboys in Dallas. The frigid win in Green Bay on Lawrence Tynes' overtime field goal, and Eli's great escape and David Tyree's catch, setting up Plaxico Burress' game-winning TD catch in the final minute of the title game.
``No one is giving us respect, and we like that,'' said defensive end Justin Tuck, who has replaced Strahan in the starting lineup. ``We're still the quiet team lurking. That's a perfect sign for me. Just the way we have attacked this camp. We're not anywhere settled with our Super Bowl win.
``My saying is if you got 10 fingers, why not fill all of them?'' Tuck said. ``I'm not satisfied with one big ring. I want a few.''
Never satisfied is one of the sayings that Coughlin put on T-shirts that were given to players in the offseason.
``One thing I've been hearing is satisfied,'' said middle linebacker Antonio Pierce, the odds-on-favorite to replace Strahan as the leader of the defense. ``Are you satisfied you won a Super Bowl? If anybody's satisfied, you're crazy. I don't think as players any of us are satisfied with our contracts, how we played, anything about us. When you get satisfied, that's complacency, and in this league, those guys go so fast.''
With the exception of Shockey, Manning and the offense will return untouched.
The quarterback will have to continue the development that started in the final game of the regular season against New England and flourished in the playoffs, culminating in a Super Bowl MVP award.
Burress, who caught a career-high 12 touchdowns last season despite practicing fewer than 10 times because of an ankle injury, is hoping for a better season once a new problem with his right ankle is healed.
With this being a contract year for Brandon Jacobs, expect the big halfback to put up big numbers. He rushed for 1,009 yards even though he was limited to 11 regular-season games by injury. Backfield by committee will continue with Ahmad Bradshaw and Derrick Ward filling in for a team that really didn't miss Tiki Barber last season.
General manager Jerry Reese also kept the offensive line together by signing tackle David Diehl and guards Chris Snee and Rich Seubert to long-term contracts.
The question mark is at tight end. Kevin Boss made big plays after Shockey broke a leg in December, but the second-year pro has to do it over the course of a full season and become a better blocker. The running game averaged about a yard less after Shockey was hurt.
``During the regular season we didn't feel we were the best team,'' Manning said. ``When we got to the playoffs, we got some confidence. We played better football than anyone else and we kept that great confidence going. We still think we can play better. No one is giving us much credit and that adds to the fire and makes us say let's go earn it.''
Defensively, replacing Strahan will not be easy. Outstanding against the run and pass, he was the undeniable leader of the team.
However, the Giants, who led the league in sacks last season, might have the NFL's best pass rush without No. 92. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora is coming off a 13-sack season that got him to the Pro Bowl, Tuck had a career-best 10 sacks and strongside linebacker Mathias Kiwanuka had 4.5 sacks before breaking a leg midway through the season.
Tackles Barry Cofield and Fred Robbins have looked great in camp and Pierce is out to prove he is the leader of the defense.
The secondary returns starting cornerbacks Aaron Ross and Corey Webster and the safety position is four deep with Michael Johnson, James Butler, free agent-signee Sammy Knight and rookie Kenny Phillips, the first-round draft pick who has been the star of training camp.
The go-for-broke unit should improve in its second season under coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.
The only concern is weakside linebacker, where newcomer Danny Clark, Gerris Wilkinson and rookie Bryan Kehl are looking to replace Kawika Mitchell, who was signed by Buffalo as a free agent.
``A lot of people didn't think we could do it last year and there are a lot of people that don't think we can do it again,'' punter Jeff Feagles said. ``Certainly Tom has told us the next step is to go out and put it behind us. We have the ring to remind ourselves how great of a season it was. When you go through that type of season, it makes you believe that you can do it again.''
Veteran Amani Toomer remembers the 2001 season, the year after the Giants lost to Baltimore in the Super Bowl. Players came to camp and went through the motions, thinking they were a lot better than they were. They went 7-9.
``It's different this year,'' Toomer said. ``Every time I've been on a team that has won there has been a sense of urgency and I feel the sense of urgency here. When I've been on a team that thinks we're really good, we end up doing really bad. I think every team that has been successful has had something to prove and we do.''
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