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American Football: Fassel returns to Giant stadium

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posted on Sep, 1 2004 @ 05:43 PM
Ravens in the preseason finale means more to the New York Giants than deciding a few roster spots, fine tuning for the regular season or a Deion sighting.

This year, it's the return of Jim Fassel.

The man who led the Giants to a Super Bowl appearance in 2000 had his seven-year run as head coach end after a 4-12 season in 2003. Now he returns to Giants Stadium Thursday night on the Ravens' sideline.

Fassel was hired by Brian Billick as a senior consultant in February after failing to land another head coaching job. The longtime quarterback guru has been given the task of molding Kyle Boller into an efficient signal caller, much as he did with Kerry Collins for the Giants.

Many thought Fassel had the Giants on the verge of a Super Bowl run last season.

However, after the season ended with an eight-game losing streak, Fassel was fired and Tom Coughlin hired.

"There's change in this league, and you've got to be able to be adaptable," Fassel said. "If you're not, you're a dinosaur and you're done."

Fassel is looking forward to returning. He will stand on the sidelines during the first half and work out of the coaches' box in the second.

Knowing Fassel, he will have a smile on his face and maybe a tear in his eye walking on the field for the first time in what is a homecoming. He still owns a home in New Jersey.

"I think there will be emotions," Fassel said. "I've thought about it, you get yourself ready for it. But it being preseason lightens the load a little bit."

The sight of Fassel in a Ravens' shirt will be odd for Giants veterans.

"It will be a weird feeling," said safety Shaun Williams, who was a first-round draft choice in 1998, Fassel's second season. "I am sure he is coming in here to do his job to the best of his ability and we are, too."

Running back Tiki Barber had not thought about this being Fassel's return.

"He's a good friend, that's all he is now," said Barber, who planned on making sure he spoke with his old boss.

The Giants and the Ravens have met in the preseason every year since 1996, and the game has been the teams' preseason finale for the last six years.

The Ravens (2-1) are arriving two days after luring seven-time Pro Bowl cornerback Deion Sanders out of retirement to be a nickel back this season. It is highly unlikely that he would play on Thursday, but he intends to be ready for Baltimore's season opener.

Ray Lewis and the Ravens' defense have been playing well without Sanders. In three preseason games, the defense has allowed one touchdown.

Offensively, Boller has been coming along under Fassel, but there is still work to be done.

The Giants (1-2) plan to let recently named starter Kurt Warner and the offense play into the second quarter before bringing on Eli Manning, the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.

The big concern for New York is the offensive line, which is still making too many mistakes.

Defensively, the Giants had their best game last week, allowing 10 points in a 17-10 loss to the Jets. The other score came on a fumble return after Manning was sacked.

Whatever happens this week, Fassel plans to enjoy himself.

"I've got my job to do, but I'm sure they'll come up and say hello and I'd like to say hello to them," Fassel said. "We have a lot of fond memories, a lot of camaraderie with those guys. It doesn't just disappear."

Fassel could guarantee that, but that's another story.


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