Free-agent-to-be WR Toomer unsure of future with Giants

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Amani Toomer was clearly uncomfortable answering questions about being an unrestricted free agent after 13 seasons with the New York Giants.

The 34-year-old Toomer, the most productive receiver in team history, chose his words carefully Wednesday. His facial expression indicated there were times he did not know what to say.

One thing is certain: Toomer's next game might be his last with the Giants (12-4).

Toomer's contract with the defending Super Bowl champions ends after this season and he doesn't know whether the team wants him back.

"This is the business part of it," Toomer said Wednesday after the first of the team's two practices during the NFC East winner's bye week. "I have never been a free agent, so it is going to be exciting. I am going to look at it as exciting. It will be a different experience for me. That's all I can really say."

Toomer did not know if any progress was made on a new contract, and general manager Jerry Reese did not return an e-mail from The Associated Press seeking comment.

What has to be discouraging for Toomer is Reese has locked up several key players over the past year, including guards Chris Snee and Rich Seubert, tackle David Diehl and cornerback Corey Webster.

Reese also gave Plaxico Burress a $35 million contract hours before the start of the season, only to see the talented but troubled receiver have off-field problems that culminated with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Burress was suspended for a second time this season, and also put on the season-ending non-football injury list.

If the Giants trade or release Burress, that might free up money to sign Toomer. But Reese also needs the cash to sign halfbacks Brandon Jacobs and Derrick Ward, who both rushed for more than 1,000 yards this season.

Jacobs, 26, and Ward, 28, are both unrestricted free agents and may get the first call because of their ages.

On the other hand, Toomer has been one of the team's most solid citizens.

"I don't know, maybe I should have held out in minicamp," quipped Toomer, who caught at least 63 passes per season between 1999-2003.

This has not been Toomer's best season. He was second on the team with 48 catches for 580 yards and four touchdowns. The reception total is 11 less than last season, and his 12.1 yard average is almost a yard below a year ago. His four TDs are one more than in 2007.

Second-year pro Steve Smith led the team with 57 catches for 574 yards and one touchdown, with most of his catches coming as a backup.

Quarterback Eli Manning once used Toomer as his security blanket on third down, but Smith seems to have inherited that role.

Coincidentally, one of Toomer's top games came the day after Burress shot himself in the thigh at a New York nightclub. He caught five passes for a season-high 85 yards, including a season-long 40-yard TD on the opening drive in a crucial 23-7 win over Washington.

Remarkably, his role seemingly has diminished since. He caught seven passes for 75 yards in the final three regular-season games.

Toomer admits he is not content with his performance this season.

"I felt it could have been a lot better, personally," said the former Michigan product who leads the Giants in career catches (668), yards receiving (9,497), touchdown catches (54) and 100-yard receiving games (22). "It ended up the way it did and I can't say I'm satisfied."

Toomer said the only thing he can tell Reese during contract talks would be to look at the film and see the clutch plays he makes, the way he blocks, and the little things that don't end up in the statistics. He added that he was more consistent this season.

However, when pressed, Toomer said he was unhappy with not only his production but also the way he was used.

"The only thing I control are my percentages (of catches) and I felt I was pretty good at that," he said. "It's a touchy topic. I don't feel that comfortable talking about it."

Toomer was a lot more comfortable talking about the Giants' playoff hopes.

"We had confidence last year, but we didn't put it on the field until the playoffs, or the last couple of games," Toomer said. "I think we are a more consistent group this year."

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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