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Southern California’s Matt Keneley returns to Giants Stadium

April 27, 1997

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) _ Matt Keneley lived and played in Darrell Russell’s shadow as the starting defensive tackles at Southern California. It seems it’s going to take a while for that to change in the NFL.

Every time someone talked to Keneley this weekend at the New York Giants’ minicamp for rookies, the conversations eventually turned to Russell, who was selected by the Oakland Raiders with the second pick in the draft on April 19.

Keneley, taken 206 picks after Russell, smiles when the talk turns to his former teammate.

``It is tough,″ the seventh-round draft choice said Sunday after the final rookie workout. ``You do get a little of your limelight stolen, but I never looked at it sourly. I just kept doing what the coaches asked me to do and playing whatever they wanted me to play.

``Darrell would be freed up and I’d be taking double teams or whatever,″ he added. ``But I know in my heart I can play at this level and that’s all that matters. The important thing is how long you play.″

Statistically, Keneley played about as well as Russell.

Keneley had 66 tackles and five sacks last season, while Russell, a junior, finished with 56 tackles and nine sacks.

If there is a difference, it’s weight. Russell plays at 321 pounds, 34 pounds heavier than Keneley.

Russell’s pockets are also going to be a lot heavier than Keneley’s.

``Yeah, he gets a few more bucks, but what can you do?″ Keneley said. ``I play the game because I love it, not for the money.″

One thing that will work in Keneley’s favor is the lack of pressure. He can come into camp and work in anonymity.

``I have talked to guys who have been drafted in low rounds and they come in and expectations are not there,″ Keneley said. ``There’s a lot of upside. If Darrell makes one play in a game, it won’t mean anything. It’s expected. There’s a lot of attention on him from the media and because of the money. If I make a play, people will say, `See the play that guy made.′ I have no complaints. I like where I am sitting.″

A two-time academic All American with a degree in public administration, Keneley should benefit playing a defensive scheme almost identical to the one used by Southern California. Even the terminology is the same.

Defensive line coach Denny Mercin said Keneley picked up everything well and showed good techniques this weekend. Prior to the draft, Mercin said he was impressed watching Keneley on videotape.

``The thing we saw is that you could see he was a smart player,″ Mercin said. ``He could read the blocking scheme, which is a big plus.″

Competition at defensive tackle should be good.

Keith Hamilton, who re-signed in the offseason, is expected to start at one tackle. It’s uncertain whether Ray Agnew will be back. He had a big contract and the Giants may dump it in June.

That would leave Robert Harris, second-year players Bernard Holsey, Roman Okoli and Darnell Gilliard to battle along with Keneley and Christian Peter, the controversial 1996 Patriots draft choice who was signed by the Giants after last season ended.

CAMP NOTES: Coach Jim Fassel is impressed with running back Tiki Barber, the Giants second-round pick.

``I like him,″ Fassel said. ``He made one cut, he took the ball, went right, cut back to the left, darted upfield, cut back to the left and took it on up the field. I heard one guy behind me say: `Holy Smokes, who is that?′

``Tiki Barber,″ Fassel said proudly in describing his answer.

As Fassel smiled, he got a reminder about working with the New York area media.

``It wasn’t his position coach who said that?″ one reporter asked.

After some laughs, came the next question.

``It wasn’t the general manager, was it?″

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