For now, it's 'The Bachelor' at quarterback for the Giants

Updated: June 7, 2004, 5:58 PM ET
Associated Press

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The No. 1 pick in the draft and the guy with two MVP trophies and a Super Bowl ring stood in the back when the New York Giants offense began its drills at minicamp Monday.

Instead, "The Bachelor" led the way.

Jesse Palmer, who gained fame for his appearance on the reality TV show this summer, is currently the starting quarterback ahead of Eli Manning and Kurt Warner.

No one expects that to last, of course, not with Warner brought in last week to tutor the latest heir to the Manning quarterback dynasty. But long enough for Palmer to impress new coach Tom Coughlin.

"He has responded very well to the coaching and to what he has been asked to do," Coughlin said. "He is the guy who has really done a very good job of doing exactly what he has been coached to do."

In some ways, it's a surprise that Palmer is still a Giant after three years as a backup to the departed Kerry Collins -- he was unimpressive after getting his first three starts last season when Collins sprained an ankle. Then it appeared that Coughlin and the team's new coaching staff were less than impressed that Palmer was involved in reality television when he should have been studying the team's new playbook.

In fact, some people were surprised that he wasn't let go when Warner was signed last Thursday -- journeyman Kurt Kittner went instead. And he still might not make the team -- Manning and Warner are sure things and rookie Jared Lorenzen and NFL Europe star Ryan Van Dyke are also on the roster.

But there he was on Monday with the first unit while Warner and Manning each waited their turn. And there apparently is some thought that when the season starts, he could back up Warner while Manning learns as the third stringer. That's how Carson Palmer, last year's overall No. 1 pick, learned in Cincinnati last season, beginning the season as the third-stringer behind Jon Kitna and Shane Matthews and moving up to No. 2 in October.

Jesse Palmer, a fourth-round draft pick in 2001, doesn't have close to the football credentials of the other two -- he's far better known as "The Bachelor" than for anything he's done on the football field. Even at Florida under Steve Spurrier, he was only a part-time QB.

Warner, meanwhile, was the NFL's MVP in 1999 and 2001 and the MVP of the Super Bowl played in 2000. Manning is the latest product of the NFL's first family of quarterbacks and his brother, Peyton, was co-MVP of the league last season with the Colts.

Palmer insisted Monday that his television career never detracted from his preparation for football.

"The taping for the show was in the offseason," he said. "It ended in March and I've been working out and studying ever since. My head is right back in the game. I think I learned a lot starting late last season and I think I've learned a lot from the new coaching staff. They can see the tapes of what I've done -- not only in regular-season games but in past preseasons."

For now, Coughlin is impressed. If nothing else, that would indicate that if Palmer's future with the Giants is limited, he is likely to catch on elsewhere if he's cut --the coaching grapevine would probably guarantee that.

"His ball handling is improved, his awareness has improved and obviously he has studied because he responds very well to spontaneous questions," Coughlin said. "He has done a good job."

Good enough to start in the regular season?

Not permanently, at least not for the Giants -- unless Warner goes down early and Manning doesn't develop as quickly as the Giants hope.

But good enough to ensure that he has a career beyond reality television.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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