Monday, January 15, 2001

Collins clean, sober and Super

        EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — He was in this tremendous groove, every pass leaving his hand bearing perfect instructions. Kerry Collins couldn't miss, and this was ironic. Because for most of his six-year pro career, he'd missed with everything he tried.

        Confidence. Self-control. Relationships with teammates. Managing his drinking. Barely two years ago, the New Orleans Saints signed Collins for $100, then let him go a month later after a drunken-driving arrest.

        Sunday, he was throwing for 381 yards and five touchdowns in an NFC championship game he ended in the first quarter. Every Super Bowl needs its tale of redemption or validation. Kerry Collins
will go to Tampa with both.

        Collins directed the New York Giants' not-as-close-as 41-0 bloodletting of the Minnesota Vikings with the ease of a supermodel in the footlights. You'd have thought he'd been there before.

Vikings helped
        It helped that the Vikings secondary is still looking to make its first play of the game. If the Minnesota corners were Siberia, they couldn't cover the ground with snow. “I thought they would try to establish the run,” said safety Robert Griffith.

        Uh, Robert, the Vikings finished 28th in the league against the pass.

        With 10:24 left in the half, Collins threw an 8-yard TD pass to his friend and former Penn State teammate Joe Jurevicius. That made it 24-0. In the parking lot, they were warming the Vikings' bus.

        Collins was already 14 for 19 for 246 yards and three TDs. “We felt the plays versus their corners would benefit us,” Giants offensive coordinator Sean Payton said. Meaning, the Vikings cornerbacks couldn't cover a twin bed with a king sheet.

        Minnesota was down 14-0 before its offense ran a play. When it got to be 34-0 at halftime, you wanted to hug the Vikings and send them home to their mothers.

        Minnesota was not coming back from that. Not on the loose, sandlot grass that made cutting and quick bursts of speed impossible. Not against the Giants defense or the 79,310 maniacs in the stands or the public address that slammed headache rock-n-roll at the Vikings during every timeout.

        New York is a tough place to overcome even if you're not a visiting football team down 14-0 before you hear your first expletive from the second row.

Doesn't hurt himself
        Payton had faxed Collins the game plan Tuesday night. “The best stuff we do,” Payton had scribbled. It was the greatest hits of the Giants passing game, and it let Collins know he would be the star if it all worked out.

        Before Collins could overcome the Vikings, he had to overcome himself. After getting Carolina to the NFC title game in his second season, Collins authored the how not-to manual for making it in the NFL.

        He told a racist joke to black teammates. He handled instant celebrity by drinking heavily. Four games into the '98 season, he decided he couldn't lead the Panthers any longer.

        “You get beat up, and you get beat down. People call you a loser, it's going to make you tough,” Collins said after the game. Last week Collins said, “I always felt that if I don't hurt myself, I could be successful.”

        He has stopped hurting himself. He got a second chance and he's running with it. A thousand miles. All the way to Tampa.

        Paul Daugherty welcomes your comments at (513) 768-8454.


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