This season Sehorn has played well enough to suggest that he has returned to form. Fassel has said as much, as have other coaches and several players on the 8-4 Giants. Through Sunday, Sehorn had 56 tackles and two interceptions in 10 games. "I've always said, when he is healthy, he is the best corner in the NFL," Giants strong safety Sam Games said early in the season. "I wouldn't want to play behind anyone else. He is the real deal."
Players and coaches on opposing teams added to the chorus announcing the cornerback's rebirth. "He's one of the best athletes at corner you'll ever see," said Baltimore Ravens coach Brian Billick. "It sounds like he's very intent this year, very focused on his profession, which sometimes happens when you have an injury and you realize all this can disappear. As an opponent you have to be careful if you really want to go at his side."
While Sehorn confides that he's been "caught guessing a few times," he does allow that he's playing "leaps and bounds" better than he did last year. In his seventh NFL season he weighs 214 pounds, just above his lightest as a pro. "As far as reading plays and reacting to them," he says, "I'd say this season I'm on a par with how I played in '97. But I still have a hard time looking in the mirror and going, 'You're good.' I'd rather just go out and play and let my coaches evaluate my performance."
Early in the season sports-writers who cover the Giants went so far as to say that Se-horn's presence on the field had improved the play of the entire Giants defense. It was an argument the cornerback didn't buy. "It would be close to asinine to think that because I'm healthy and playing again, we as a team are successful," he said. "O.K., suddenly I'm good again, so everybody else is too? Come on. That's embarrassing. And it really paints a bad picture of the people who sweated their butts off two years while I was barely around."
In the second week of the season the Philadelphia Eagles challenged Sehorn on their first offensive play. Quarterback Donovan McNabb pump-faked to receiver Charles Johnson as he ran a slant pattern, but Sehorn wasn't fooled. Johnson turned upfield and Sehorn ran with him, prompting McNabb to toss the ball away. The play answered a couple of key questions about Sehom. Would opposing teams test him to see if he was up to speed? (Yes, and in a hurry.) Was he prepared to handle whatever challenge they threw at him? (Perhaps never more so in his professional life.)
"Playing football right now is the only thing I have to do," says Sehorn. "I don't have to be concerned about anything else. It's really a comforting feeling, to be at ease, with nothing distracting you from your job." Sehorn's renewal on the field has renewed his popularity among fans of the Giants. When he was hurt, not everyone regarded him with sympathy, despite the fact that he suffered his injuries while in the service of his team. Tired of Sehorn's magazine spreads, charity appearances and advertising deals, people wrote him letters saying he had his priorities confused and was working harder for outside interests than for what really counted: the Giants. Teammates wondered the same thing aloud. One knock against Sehorn, dating back to when he was in high school in Northern California, has been his inability to maintain focus. If he was posing for fitness-magazine covers and Italian fashion designer Ermenegildo Zegna, how could he be concentrating on a return to the game?
Last year, before a preseason game against the Ravens, Pat Hanlon, the Giants' vice president of communications, approached Sehorn on the sideline during warmups. "The concept of overexposure...does that mean anything to you, Jason?" asked Hanlon, one of Sehorn's closest allies in the organization.
"Oh, yeah," came Sehorn's reply. He was wearing street clothes and sitting out yet another game because of injury.
"Has it occurred to you that people might be getting sick of you?" Hanlon continued. "Every time they open a magazine or turn on TV, they see Jason Sehorn. You don't think they get tired of that?"
"Pat, you're right," Sehorn answered. "But you have to see it from my perspective. This is a short-term opportunity. It doesn't last a lifetime. And guess what? I'm not going to let it pass."