CHANDLER, Ariz. - "Randy Moss" was catching footballs thrown by Eli Manning all week at practice. It not only provided the Giants with some valuable insight, but it gave the University of Massachusetts a bit of presence, too.
No, it's not a case of desert fever, it's just a roundabout way of introducing Brandon London of Framingham, Mass., via the Minuteman football program. He's a young man with a big dream: "To be a premier receiver in this league."
It is a dream for which there is no blueprint, which is why the 23-year-old London is traveling in such a distinct fashion during Super Bowl week. He is a member of the Giants, yes. But he really isn't. He's an undrafted free agent on the practice squad, which means London is in the desert to help in any way the coaches see fit. And given his size, London received the role of Moss in practices; after all, they're both listed at 6 feet 4 inches, 210 pounds.
"We played some of the teams the Patriots have already played, so I've seen cut-ups of their offense," said London. "I see how they use him and I see the route combinations that he runs. It kind of helps me understand what they're trying to do."
What London is trying to do is earn a spot on an NFL roster, preferably the Giants. He played at Framingham High as a junior, then at Albemarle High in Charlottesville, Va., as a senior. After a year at Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, London moved on to UMass and started 31 games. As a senior, London had 46 receptions for 750 yards and 9 touchdowns, but he'd be lying if he said this practice-squad stuff is glamorous.
"It definitely has its ups and downs. You keep working, helping the team develop and then at game time, you're just sitting there, watching," he said. "It's hard watching, but it's the road I have to take."
When the Giants are home, London watches from the sideline. When they travel, he watches on TV at home. This road game, however, is an exception. This week, he traveled with the team - as someone else, of course.
"You really can't prepare to be [Moss]," said London. "He's the best receiver in the game right now. I just try to give them the best look as possible, catch everything thrown my way, and score as many touchdowns as I can."
London - whose father, Mike, was the defensive line coach at Boston College under Tom O'Brien from 1997-2000 (thus, his connection to Framingham) - keeps an optimistic view of his situation.
"The Giants tell me how they like me, so they've kept me around the whole year. Hopefully, next year I'll be competing to be one of the top receivers on this team. I try to look at it like I'm redshirting."
On paradeNew York City is planning a Super Bowl parade Tuesday - also known as election day, or Super Tuesday. The plans are contingent on a Giants victory. Asked yesterday about the parade plans, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, "I have refused to talk about it - I am not going to jinx the Giants' chance." . . . Jeff Feagles, 41, will not only become the oldest Super Bowl participant, he will be adding University of Phoenix Stadium to the list of stadiums in which he's punted. Feagles, who used to play for the Arizona Cardinals, called the team's old home, Sun Devil Stadium, the best NFL venue he's ever punted in. As for the worst, he had to laugh. "It's where I play 10 games a year [Giants Stadium]. It's very difficult there because of the wind. The cold weather is not such a bad thing, it's just the wind there is so hard to figure out." . . . Someone actually wondered if the Phoenix nightlife would be a tempting disruption to the Giants. Responded wide receiver Amani Toomer: "We come from New York City. Nightlife is not going to be a distraction to us. There is nightlife every night in New York." Backup defensive end Adrian Awasom, who has been on injured reserve since Sept. 18, however, was distracted. He was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving by Arizona state police early yesterday. Giants spokesman Pat Hanlon said Awasom was sent home by the team . . . Having wideouts from Michigan (Toomer) and Michigan State (Plaxico Burress) doesn't present a problem for the team's starting receivers. At least that was Toomer's take. "He really loves Michigan State and Michigan has been struggling the last couple of years," said Toomer. "But Michigan still beats them all of the time, so that is always good."
Burress loosens upWide receiver Plaxico Burress did not practice for the third straight day, although, "He did run a few things in individual [portion of practice]," coach Tom Coughlin told the pool reporter yesterday. Burress stretched and ran a few routes, but did not practice, according to the injury report. Burress did not take part in the team portion of practice. He has been nursing a sore right ankle most of the season, and he popped up on the injury report Thursday with a left knee injury. Burress often missed practice during the regular season to rest his ankle, but he did not miss a game and he had a career-high 12 touchdown receptions. Defensive end Osi Umenyiora missed practice with a sore thigh, but he is listed as probable. Cornerback Kevin Dockery (hip flexor) and guard Rich Seubert (knee) were also probable . . . Michael Strahan is one of two Giants (Toomer the other) who was part of the Giants' Super Bowl team thrashed by Baltimore seven years ago. Asked about that 34-7 loss several times this week, Strahan finally had it. "I couldn't care less about 2000," he said. "It's over and it's a totally different team, totally different attitude, and a totally different approach." . . . The Giants have something in common with the 1985 Patriots. Like that Raymond Berry-coached team, the Giants have won three playoff games on the road and only one other team in NFL history has done that - the 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers. Also, the Patriots of '85 and this year's Giants are among nine wild-card entrants who made it to the Super Bowl. The last two wild-card teams to make the Super Bowl were victorious (the 2005 Steelers and 2000 Ravens), but overall wild-card teams are 4-4 . . . Before running off three straight to win the NFC championship, the Giants had lost four consecutive postseason games, dating to the 2000 Super Bowl.
Material from the Associated Press was used; Jim McCabe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.