HOT TOPIC: Giants OL

The Giants have proven that they know how to build a support structure for their offensive line.

When starting center Shaun O'Hara went out with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee last Thursday night in the first half against Kansas City, in came veteran Grey Ruegamer, who also plays guard, and later here came Rich Seubert, who also plays guard.

The next day, in fact, head coach Tom Coughlin, who worries about things like which player isn't tying his shoelaces properly, didn't even sound overly concerned. "It might be a week or it might be two," he said. "It is reason for some concern, but I don't think it's going to stretch into whether or not he will make it back for the opener."

A surprisingly calm and dispassionate attitude coming from a coach who isn't known for his laidback worldview. Coughlin commented on the fact that the team has both Ruegamer and Seubert and indicated that he was reasonably confident of either one playing the position.

For the record, O'Hara will miss this next preseason game (against the New York Jets) and there is no concrete decision on whether he'll be playing in the final one the next week against New England.

But what of it, right? Both Ruegamer and Seubert are qualified to call signals and blocking schemes and with the surrounding veterans, the center position needs only to be efficiently played. No flair necessary, you know?

It was not always this way. General manager Ernie Accorsi has tried for years to build a sub-line, one that can take the field and not embarrass itself. To that end, he now has a veteran and former Pro Bowl player, Bob Whitfield, behind Luke Petitgout at left tackle; a free agent rookie he likes, Matthew Lentz, behind right guard Chris Snee -- an alternate to the Pro Bowl last year; Seubert behind left guard David Diehl (and behind Snee as well); Ruegamer behind O'Hara; and another undrafted rookie, Na'Shan Goddard, behind right tackle Kareem McKenzie.

But Lentz and Goddard are there for the future. Right now, the movable parts are Seubert, Whitfield and Ruegamer -- all of whom have experience, all of whom have been starters and all of whom can play multiple positions (Whitfield is equally adept at right tackle).

Speaking of Whitfield, the former No. 1 draft pick in Atlanta, Accorsi noted that he was "the best quality available in a long time among offensive linemen." Prior to the 2000 season, Accorsi signed free agent veterans Lomas Brown, a tackle, and Glenn Parker, a guard. That tandem started and helped to get the Giants to Super Bowl XXXV.

"You know, Whitfield had a lot more left than Brown did," Accorsi said. "I think we were extremely lucky to sign him."

And quarterback Eli Manning appears to be equally fortunate to have a first tier and a second tier of qualified blockers and protectors.

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