News From Terre Haute, Indiana

February 2, 2012

Switching uniforms hasn't changed coaches' focus

Tom James
Tribune-Star Correspondent

INDIANAPOLIS — New York Giants assistant coach Larry Izzo and New England Patriots assistant coach Pepper Johnson find themselves in an interesting predicament.

Izzo, the Giants’ assistant special teams coach, played linebacker and was a special teams ace for New England from 2001-08. Johnson, the Patriots’ defensive line coach, played linebacker for seven seasons with New York.

Their current loyalties shouldn’t be questioned. But preparing for Sunday’s Super Bowl XLVI, the memories of their combined five Super Bowl appearances came flooding back.

“They are all great memories and winning the Super Bowls. Nothing beats coming in and knowing as a team you got the job done and no else is better for that year,” Izzo said Wednesday. “That goes for all three Super Bowls we won. That feeling of accomplishment and knowing that the team will always be connected by the [victories].”

Johnson agrees, although a change of uniforms by the Giants has slightly lessened his recall.

“They don’t wear the same uniforms that we wore, so it doesn’t give me flashbacks in that aspect. When ESPN shows different highlights of our games back in the day, I hear about them through everybody else. I don’t get to watch [television] much anymore, so I don’t really have the flashbacks,” he said.

“It doesn’t hit me the same way, like the last time we were here [in 2007]. You know, you at least had [defensive end Michael] Strahan that was here, a guy that I actually spent training camp with.”

Yes, age has caught up with at least one of the former Super Bowl participants.

“Here’s a story for you. We actually played against [quarterback] Chris Simms. We played against Tampa Bay. Chris Simms, watching him, I was a guy that was talking to a lot of our [players], especially talking to the defensive line, how we can get to him, his scramble patterns and stuff like that. It didn’t really hit me – [that it was] Phil Simms’ son – until he grabbed his helmet, and he was running out on the field,” Johnson said during Super Bowl Media Day. 

“I know this sounds storybook, but I promise you, I felt like that was him as the 6-year-old, 8-year-old, grabbing his father’s helmet, and the helmet was big on his head, and I had to snap out of it. He was running out on the field. I actually lived that moment for, whatever, maybe a split second. But I actually lived that moment that he was running out there with a helmet too big, and I’m like, ‘I just told my guys to go out and kill Phil Simms’ son. Phil wouldn’t like that. I know he’s up there thinking that’s what I said.’ That was a flashback to me.”

Big Brandon – Former Southern Illinois running back Brandon Jacobs figures to be a major factor – both figuratively and literally – against the Patriots.

Jacobs has split playing time with Ahmad Bradshaw this season in New York’s two-pronged running game. That’s expected to continue in Super Bowl XLVI.

“We can keep them off balance. I think we’re good enough for any team, to prove that we can go out there and make a difference in this football game. Everyone’s been talking about tight ends, wide receivers, quarterbacks and so on and so forth. It’s kind of good for the first time being a part of the New York Giants football team that the running backs are being talked about,” Jacobs said Wednesday.

“We as running backs are going to embrace that, because it never has happened. We’re going to try to take it and stay under the lights for a little bit and be on top of the lights on Sunday.”

With the Patriots’ run defense suspect during the regular season, the hard-charging Jacobs figures to be a force to be reckoned with.

“I’ve just got to run a little harder and try to get more yards out of the contact, because I think if there’s a good defense then you’re going to get hit, so you may as well get ready for it. I’ve just got to get going a little harder and try to get a couple extra yards,” he said.

Osi fined – Defensive end Osi Umenyiora was fined $20,000 by NFL officials for missing Wednesday morning’s media availability.

He was the only New York or New England player to miss the daily media session.

“I misunderstood the schedule. It won’t happen again, and I will be at tomorrow’s media session and available after the game,” Umenyiora said later.