Giants: From Super to somber

9-13-01, 11:40 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

Until Bengals President Mike Brown talked to Jim McNally, there was no doubt in his mind that the NFL ought to play the games this weekend.

But after Brown spoke Wednesday night with McNally, the Bengals' old assistant now coaching the Giants' offensive line, he was pretty much convinced it would be too hard for the games to go on.

"Six, seven miles away," said McNally Thursday afternoon from his Meadowlands office.

That's how far McNally figures what used to be the World Trade Center is from where the Giants play and practice in New Jersey.

"Just across the river," McNally said. "There's a big parking lot here. Probably about hundreds of cars. It's a drop-off point to get into the city. The thing was, a day later, a lot of the cars were still there. The people didn't get back."

That might have been the thing that stuck with McNally the longest. That, and the view of the skyline.

"The most amazing thing is how close it is to where we are," McNally said. "You can see it. You can see the burning fires."

McNally admitted how hard it was getting ready for the Packers until word came halfway through Thursday's practice that the game was off. Never mind that the biggest disaster ever on

American soil had taken place a glance away.

But the Giants didn't get back from Monday night's loss in Denver until 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, and McNally was in early enough to join everyone in head coach Jim Fassel's office watching the coverage of the first plane that went into Tower One.

"Then I went into another assistant coach's office and saw the second plane go into the thing and it was just unbelievable," McNally said. "I heard that one of our players was up at the top of the stadium watching and then saw the second plane hit."

The Giants' coaches, absolutely sapped between the emotion and the jet lag, left the office about 5 p.m. McNally's final, vivid image of the day is driving home to New Jersey and on the other side of the road was "miles and miles and thousands and thousands of cars at a standstill. They must have been waiting to get into the city, but they couldn't get in because it was shut down."

McNally is the ultimate pro football workaholic, but even he has been emerging from his office to watch the TV and wondering how the games could go on.

Asked if the Giants will be able to recover this season, McNally knew he wasn't being asked about the loss to Denver.

"It's going to take awhile," he admitted.

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