A Giant Transformation
The Principled Peter
Last Friday in the Giants locker room, as defensive tackle Christian Peter talked about his personal and professional rebirth, strength coach John Dunn came up and gave him a hug. "If my daughter were a little older," Dunn said, "I'd love it if she wanted to date this guy." Peter gave Dunn an appreciative nod and then said, "This guy, this team, have been so great to me."
The Giants gave Peter, who had a long rap sheet when they signed him in January 1997, a chance to redeem himself. One strike and you're out, they told him. He's still at bat. He hasn't been fined a dime. He hasn't missed a team, psychiatrists or Alcoholics Anonymous meeting without being excused. "He hasn't missed pregame mass in three seasons," says general manager Ernie Accorsi, "and he's a regular reader there."
Peter played in seven games his first season and every game last year, making six starts. Now, with defensive tackle Robert Harris out for the season after undergoing ankle surgery, the 6'3", 298-pound Peter lines up between tackle Keith Hamilton and end Michael Strahan in a formidable defense. During his second start, in Philadelphia on Oct. 31, Peter kept the Giants in the game in the fourth quarter by blocking a 33-yard field goal attempt; in overtime he deflected a Doug Pederson pass that ended up in the hands of Strahan, who returned the interception 44 yards for the winning touchdown. On Sunday, Peter had two tackles in a 27-19 loss to the Colts. "You can't tire this man out," says New York defensive coordinator John Fox.
"I love this game so much," Peter says. "I'm so lucky to play it for a living. Millions of kids would give their left arm to do what I do. I don't forget that."
He did for a while. During his five years at Nebraska, Peter was arrested eight times and convicted four times on charges ranging from public urination to third-degree sexual assault. The Patriots selected him in the fifth round of the 1996 draft, only to release him three days later after owner Bob Kraft claimed that the team didn't realize the extent of Peter's criminal behavior before selecting him. Shortly after his release Peter began undergoing alcohol counseling, and in November '96 the Giants told Peter that they would sign him at the end of the season if he continued with his program. Two months later he was under contract, though club president Wellington Mara also issued the one-strike edict. "The Giants stuck their necks out for me," Peter says. "I'll always appreciate that. I'm sorry for what I've done and the people I've hurt. I've worked hard to become a better person."
Peter is polite to a fault, giving his mea culpa almost by rote. The only thing that gets him riled is the suggestion that he didn't deserve another opportunity because of the multitude—and the magnitude—of his screwups. "I made mistakes, and I was given one chance," he says. "I've tried to make something of it. A lot of people in sports get more than one chance, make mistakes, and nothing is said."
Pennington, Redman Top List
There was a palpable thud in scouting departments around the league last week when Purdue quarterback Drew Brees announced he would return for his senior season. "No question it affects the quality at quarterback," 49ers general manager Bill Walsh says of next April's draft.
Unlike last year, when five quarterbacks were among the first 12 picks, there appear to be only two first-round candidates this time, Chris Redman of Louisville and Chad Pennington of Marshall. This season the 6'3" Redman has thrown 27 touchdown passes and 11 interceptions while completing 66% of his attempts. The 6'4" Pennington, a 68% passer, has thrown 31 touchdowns and been intercepted nine times. Both are football-savvy, but Redman has better pocket presence; Pennington has a slightly better arm and good touch.