The Oakland Tribune

Toomer not 49ers fan this time
January 04, 2003
By Roger Phillips STAFF WRITER

SANTA CLARA -- For Giants receiver Amani Toomer, Sunday's playoff meeting with the 49ers at Candlestick Park has some added meaning.

The 28-year-old Toomer was born in Berkeley and starred at De La Salle in Concord before playing college football at Michigan. And when he was growing up, the 49ers were his team.

This week, Toomer relived his youth in an interview with Newsday. Asked about the Giants' playoff rout of the 49ers in 1987, Toomer said, "Ruined my whole week."

Asked about the Giants' victory over the 49ers four years later in the NFC title game, he said, "Oh, my God, that was bad. That was ridiculous. That one hurt a lot."

Sunday will mark Toomer's second game at Candlestick. He had two catches for 14 yards in the Giants' 31-7 loss to the 49ers in 1998.

His allegiance to the 49ers will be on hiatus, at least on Sunday.

"I'll always have something for the Niners because I grew up watching them," he said. "Not now."

Toomer is coming off his best year, an 82-catch, 1,343-yard, 8-touchdown season.

"I'm so proud of him," Giants coach Jim Fassel said. "I love having him around here. He's playing well. He's a positive guy. He works hard. There are just so many things that he does well. His development has been phenomenal."

Quarterback Kerry Collins added, "I've seen a level of consistency from Amani this year that I haven't seen from him before, and a level of maturity. In the past, Amani seemed to have a rough spot or two throughout the year, and this year he hasn't had that."

OFFENSIVE SHAKEUP: After a 17-3 loss to Philadelphia on Oct. 28, Fassel chose to take over play-calling from offensive coordinator Sean Payton.

The Giants averaged 12.7 points with Payton calling plays; they averaged 25.7 after Fassel took over.

"I'm the head coach," Fassel said of the midseason change. "If any area is not functioning, then I'm going to take control of it. That is what they pay me to do. Sometimes you can walk away and put the finger on somebody else and absolve yourself of the blame, but that is not my personality, and I don't think that is what this organization pays me to do. The organization pays me to fix problems."

Fassel's big change has been to cut down on motion and shifting before the snap. The Giants have been successful with a simpler approach.

Niners coach Steve Mariucci was asked this week whether he ever considered taking over play-calling duties this season from his offensive coordinator, Greg Knapp. The 49ers' offense has been inconsistent most of the year.

Mariucci's response: "I don't plan any changes."

STAYING PUT?: The 49ers have trained at the University of the Pacific in Stockton the past five summers and have five years remaining on their contract.

Despite rumors they might cut costs by holding training camp at their Santa Clara headquarters beginning this summer, team president Peter Harris said the team probably will fulfill its 10-year contract.

"I think it's likely we'll remain in Stockton," said Harris, a Stockton native. "But we are confirming with the university and city that the business relationship works for both the university and the 49ers. We're saying it's greater than a 50-percent chance we'll be there for the duration."

Asked if the relationship has worked for the 49ers to this point, Harris said, "It has worked. We want to make sure the next five years satisfy the needs of the city, university and 49ers."

INJURY UPDATE: Cornerback Jason Webster's availability will be a game-time decision Sunday. Webster has a sprained ankle.

Receiver Terrell Owens (groin) practiced only on a limited basis Friday. He caught some passes but did no running.

"He wants to rest his legs for two days," Mariucci said.

LATE OPENING: The opening kickoff on Sunday won't be until 1:45 p.m. Thus, the gates at Candlestick Park won't open until 11:30 a.m., a half-hour later than usual.

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