Amani Toomer, Where Have You Gone?

Nathaniel DavisContributor IMay 14, 2009

GLENDALE, AZ - FEBRUARY 03:  Wide receiver Amani Toomer #81 of the New York Giants celebrates with the Giants fans after defeating the New England Patriots 17-14 during Super Bowl XLII on February 3, 2008 at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

With all of the rumors going around the NFL regarding Anquan Boldin and Braylon Edwards and the once considered inevitable trade to the NY Giants, I wondered if people stopped to consider about the other starting WR that the Giants had. The one that had been wearing the Giant-blue since he entered the league in 1996, out of Michigan. The guy we are talking about is Amani Toomer.

"Amani Toomer? Who cares about Amani Toomer?" I do. Toomer is far from a Hall-of Fame wide receiver. His 13-year career has been less than spectacular to those outside of NY/NJ area. In fact, some Giant fans may even agree that he should have been released a few years back.

It was Toomer who should've been considered the No. 1 when Plaxico Burress was suspended last year. After all, how could the Giants have taken an unproven group of wide-outs like Domenick Hixon and Steve Smith and put the team on their back? Why didn't the media look at the guy who used his veteran instinct to remain relevant in the league dubbed "not for long"? Why didn't the fans? Why hadn't the team look to their leader? He is the team's all-time leading receiver, after all.

Here's a guy who had survived the likes of Dan Reeves, Jim Fassel and currently Tom Coughlin. He has survived starting QBs Dave Brown, Danny Kannell, Kent Graham, Kerry Collins, and pre-rejuvenated Kurt Warner. He even endured the progression, regression and progression again of Eli Manning. He's suffered a serious knee injury in 2006. Yet, Toomer remained No. 1.

He's been the epitome of a No. 1. He's been a leader in a locker room that included Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora. When wanted someone to film the Giants' training camp from a players perspective, they turned to Toomer. When younger receivers had coverage questions, they turned to Toomer.

He's never been flashy on the field. He's never possessed the blazing speed to blow past a CB, but he knew how to get open. He didn't dance when he reached the end zone 50 times. His 6'3" frame became a solace for the then erratic throwing arm of Eli Manning. He was the possession WR that zone defenses hated to face. Ask the Dallas Cowboys how he turned a 12-yard reception into a 50+ yard TD.

Ask Deangelo Hall how he allowed Toomer to get behind him for a 40-yard bomb to the back of the end zone when the Giants came to Washington. How did he repeatedly made Hall look lost in coverage, to the point where the frustration made Hall fall on Toomer's facemask after he made a grab—getting a 15-yard penalty in the process. No, he wasn't flashy on the field, but he was there, almost always.

So what happened when Burress became unavailable? Where was our guy? Where was our No.1 guy? Was it that Toomer benefited from the double teams that Burress commanded? Did his 34-year-old legs get older as the deep winter approached? Did he forget how to be the all-time most accomplished WR in New York Giants history? 

And so the season came and the offseason began. Burress' legal troubles put the team in limbo. Our No. 1 WR was 34 and a unrestricted free agent. The Giant front office had already made up their minds to either trade for someone else's No. 1 and/or draft the potential replacement. For the first time in almost a decade and a half, Amani Toomer wouldn't be gearing up for another season with the NY Giants.

Instead, our alleged No.1 is an unproven rookie (Nicks/Barden) or a shorter version of Toomer (Smith). Our No. 1 is being linked to signing with the Chicago Bears.

I will miss how he arrived at training camp in that white porsche. I'll miss the post-game interviews with him wearing a fur coat (it looks like chinchilla!) and sparkling diamond studs. I'll miss the tip-toed catches on third down and the TDs in the back of the end zone. I'll only hope that he gave Steve Smith, Domenick Hixon, Sinorice Moss, Mario Manningham, Kevin Boss, and David Tyree the knowledge of how to run their routes and the wisdom of how to get open.

I will miss you, my No. 1!