"It's kind of like the last day of school," punter Jeff Feagles said Saturday, looking around the locker room where smiling players joked with one another and conducted another round of interviews.
For the first time since returning to work Thursday, there didn't seem to be any tension as players headed home for 36 hours of down time with their families and friends.
They will be back at Giants Stadium on Monday for meetings and a flight to Arizona to begin the final week of preparation.
"Everything is new to me, and probably to almost every guy on this team," Cofield said. "I think that's a good thing. There is a lot of excitement and a lot of anticipation. I think people are eager to go out there and play."
The one constant was Tom Coughlin, Cofield said. The coach has been intense, worried that his team is looking too far ahead.
Coughlin seemed to pick up his intensity in practice Saturday, barking at players to keep them focused and reminding them to take care of things like tickets requests and family needs now.
"I think he is fearful," Cofield said. "That's how most coaches are. I don't know what the word I want to use is .... Paranoid! Most coaches are paranoid. They always feel like they have to be prepared for everything, and coach Coughlin is like that, more so than most coaches. He sees the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and he knows if we do the right things we have a chance of getting there."
Starting left guard Rich Seubert is making progress recovering from his sprained right knee, and it's expected that he will practice in Arizona for the game. And backup cornerback Kevin Dockery (hip) worked a little for the first time in weeks, and he seemingly will ready for the championship game.
And while safety Michael Johnson, who also was ill on Friday, returned to practice, Michael Strahan had a cold and took it easy.
Halfback Brandon Jacobs said Coughlin has made sure the players are focused on the big prize.
"He knows we have a great opportunity to win this football game, and he wants to do everything in his power to prepare us the right way and make sure we don't slip up, that we leave everything out on the field," Jacobs said.
"There are going to be a lot of distractions and we are aware of that," Feagles said. "We have to keep them to a minimum and that's where the leaders on this team come in. We're taking the young guys by the hand and letting them know we may never get back to this. It's great we got here. But we want to win."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved