EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – New York Giants defensive end Justin Tuck did his best to avoid talking about the Seattle Seahawks having to start Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback for the injured Matt Hasselbeck.
Tuck started with an "I talked yesterday" statement and then defended his prediction that Hasselbeck would find a way to overcome his concussion and start on Sunday.
When Tuck finally surrendered and talked on Friday about the 27-year-old Whitehurst making his first NFL start, he did it with one sentence and couple of lyrics from former pop star Olivia Newton John — sung well off key.
"We're not going to change anything," Tuck said. "We're going to be physical."
The song came next.
"Phy-si-cal. Phy-si-cal," a high-pitched Tuck sang in a way that would have had Simon Cowell shaking his head.
"Y'all like that song?" Tuck said.
The bottom line is that while the Giants (5-2) had to scramble to find videotape of Whitehurst to prepare for Sunday's game against the Seahawks (4-3), they are not going to change much defensively.
New York has knocked out five opposing quarterbacks with an aggressive front four, a solid secondary and a stingy run defense. That's what the gameplan will feature on Sunday, and it doesn't matter who is taking the snaps.
Linebacker Michael Boley, who separated Dallas quarterback Tony Romo's left collarbone in the Giants' last game on Oct. 25 before a bye week, said Whitehurst has a strong arm and some mobility. Boley said the Giants spent the week studying for both Hasselbeck and Whitehurst and now they are focused on the former Clemson star who has never thrown a pass in a regular-season game.
"It's hard to say if that is an advantage if you don't really know the guy," Boley said. "For us, not playing this team often, we don't know much about them at all outside of what we have seen on film."
Safety Antrel Rolle said the Giants should be able to take advantage of Whitehurst's inexperience.
"No matter how long he has been in the league, this is his first NFL start, so in our eyes, he is definitely a rookie," Rolle said. "There are going to be a lot of things we can do to rattle him. There are things we can do to rattle any quarterback in this league. Being this is his first start, we are going to try to keep him off balance."
The most obvious thing a defense can do to throw off a young quarterback is to give him different looks on every play to keep him guessing.
"All I am worried about is beating the man lined up in front of me," Giants defensive tackle Barry Cofield said. "It doesn't matter to me who is playing quarterback. If you go from Vinny Testaverde to Michael Vick, maybe that changes your approach. But those two guys, I don't see a big difference in the way they play the game."
Offensively, the Seahawks will probably limit their gameplan. They can try to establish the run to keep the pressure off Whitehurst, or run shorter pass patterns or keep more players in to protect him in passing situations.
"He is an NFL quarterback, so he is capable of throwing the deep ball and things of that nature," Rolle said. "I don't think they are going to change much. They are going to stick to the gameplan."
After practice on Friday, the defensive backs held a meeting and watched videotapes of Whitehurst in the preseason. Cornerback Corey Webster plans to look at the clips a few times over the next two days, including on the team flight to Seattle on Saturday.
"I remember him from Clemson," said Webster, a former LSU player. "He's been in the league five years preparing for a start, so he is going to be comfortable and he'll go out and run this thing. We have to be ready."
Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who got his first start in his rookie season, said Whitehurst only has to know what's in the gameplan.
"You know the gameplan. You know what the plays are," Manning said. "You know what everybody is running. It's just a matter of understanding, vs. this coverage I have to work here, vs. this coverage, 1-2-3, the progressions and getting through it. It's just growing within the offense, knowing what looks are good and what looks are bad, and the different checks and getting everyone on the same page."
When asked if nerves came into play in his first game, Manning said probably.
"Seven years ago," he said, "I don't remember what I was feeling at the time."
Whitehurst will have only a few days to find a way to overcome his nerves and the Giants' defense.