With postseason play not in the cards for this Giants team it's time to turn our focus toward the…
Petitgout, the left tackle the Giants considered replacing with Iowa's Robert Gallery in the NFL Draft eight months ago, struggled at points during his third season at the position. The 1999 first-round draft pick commits too many penalties and acknowledges that because he is right-handed, he feels more comfortable playing on the right side. But he is also proud of the way he played later in the season and isn't certain the coaching staff will make him switch sides for the 2005 season. "They're going to do what they want," Petitgout said. "If they can find a better left tackle, then I'll move. But you're not just going to pick up somebody on the street and say, 'Go play left tackle.' It's not like left tackles fall off trees. I had a rough stretch there in the middle of the season, but after the Atlanta game (on Nov. 21) I went back to my old technique and I was more confident. I didn't think as much about what I was doing, trying this and that, so I feel a lot better going into the offseason about how I played in the last half of the season." Petitgout, who was paid left tackle money after the 2002 season ($30 million over five years), became more aggressive after that Falcons game. Attacking opponents made him more confident, and in turn, more effective. It remains to be seen if the Giants will aggressively pursue another left tackle in free agency, or if they're content with Petitgout protecting Eli Manning's blind side. "I'll do whatever is best for the team," Petitgout said, "but what I'm telling you is that unless you get a Walter Jones or Orlando Pace or somebody like that, you might as well just keep me at left." Seattle's Jones and St. Louis' Pace will both be unrestricted free agents, but the Seahawks and Rams could place franchise tags on both players again to keep them in those respective uniforms. Warner wants stability in 2005: Kurt Warner and his wife, Brenda, are preparing to move their five children for the second time in less than a year. The quarterback believes this move will be a little less difficult than the trek from St. Louis, where Warner played six seasons, but they seek stability. They hope that their next stay is a lot longer than the two-time former MVP's seven-month tenure as a Giant. "This one is probably going to be hard again," Warner said, "because (my kids) just got to the point where they're comfortable with everything, and now we've got to pick them up and move again. But I hope that this next position that I get can be a long-term deal and can be something where I can go and play out my career, have success and kind of ride off into the sunset." Warner would not mention which teams seem especially appealing to him, basically because the upcoming free agency period and NFL Draft could significantly change the pool of teams deemed "needy" at the quarterback position. The 33-year-old veteran believes, however, that he can play three or four more seasons at a "championship-caliber" level. "All the situations are intriguing," Warner said, "but as things get more solidified and other opportunities open, we'll just have to weigh them all and see what's the best fit for me from a lot of different standpoints, and then run from there." Giant changing of the guards? If the Giants bring in a left tackle, move Petitgout back to the right side and shift right tackle David Diehl back inside, they could become extremely deep at guard. This scenario could send the Giants to training camp with five productive players - Diehl, Wayne Lucier, Chris Snee, Rich Seubert (if he's healthy) and Jason Whittle - who've started for them at guard in the 2003 and/or 2004 seasons. "You've always got to be ready for competition," said Whittle, who started all 16 games after the Giants re-acquired him from Tampa Bay just before the season started. "I've never been in the NFL where they don't bring in more competition. You're always competing for a job. If you're not starting, you're always trying to become a starter. And once you are a starter, you're always trying to keep that position. That's the way it is for your whole career." The end zone: notes & quotes: Like Ron Dayne, Mike Cloud will be an unrestricted free agent in March. Unlike Dayne, Cloud expressed an interest in returning to the Giants next season as the backup to Pro Bowl tailback Tiki Barber. "I'd definitely like to be back here, but I'd also like to be more into the mix with a lot of things," Cloud said. "I mean, as an athlete and a competitor, you always want to play. That's more important to me, as far as my future here and in the NFL. Whatever happens, happens. Wherever I feel I have the best opportunity to go out there next year and compete and play, then that's where I want to be." Cloud gained 90 yards and scored three touchdowns on only 21 carries in 2004. . . . Now that his scary gland ordeal is behind him, Snee is looking more forward to the start of the offseason conditioning program than most Giants. "I'd like to get going as soon as possible, just because I've already had my month of not playing football," said Snee, who spent a week in a hospital undergoing numerous tests. . . . General manager Ernie Accorsi acknowledged that the Giants wouldn't be as active in free agency this year as they were in 2004, when they added five defensive starters. But based on Warner's departure, Accorsi admitted that signing a veteran backup quarterback is a priority. "I don't think it is necessarily certain that (Jesse) Palmer won't be back," Accorsi said. "But that doesn't mean we won't . . . we have already started to prepare for a veteran quarterback here. We have started our work and looked at the list. You don't anticipate who exactly is going to be available. You just have to take an educated guess at this point. But that guy is a critical player on any team."
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