The competition for the New York Giants' starting quarterback job begins here today, with just-signed prized rookie Eli Manning slated to split the practice-field snaps with two-time league most valuable player Kurt Warner throughout training camp at the University of Albany. The Giants will open camp with a morning practice today.

"There's not going to be any set way in which one person takes a majority of the first reps over another," first-year Giants coach Tom Coughlin said. "We'll rotate that around."

Coughlin also is including Jesse Palmer in his starter derby, but there appears to be little chance that he actually will win the job over Manning, the top overall pick in April's draft who signed the richest rookie contract in NFL history Thursday, and Warner, who was signed in June after his release by the St. Louis Rams to help mentor Manning and vie with him for 2004 playing time.

The conventional wisdom is that Warner will open the season as the starter and then give way at some point to Manning. But the Giants think Manning is a special player. They're paying him like one: His six-year, $45 million contract includes $20 million in bonuses. And they and Manning are leaving open the possibility that he'll be the starter from the outset of his rookie season.

"I hope to be the starting quarterback," Manning said. "That's what I've wanted to do. . . . That's my goal and hopefully that will be my reward."

Said Giants General Manager Ernie Accorsi: "This is not a screenplay or a dramatic production where there's a certain time when he waits in the wings and then comes out on stage. This is football. There has to be competition. It has to play itself out on the field. And that is why we signed Kurt Warner -- to protect ourselves. We have a veteran, and we have a young player. That is the idea. The veteran has been to two Super Bowls, and we have high hopes for the draft choice."

Manning took the first step by getting to camp basically on time, arriving here just after 3:30 p.m. Thursday. His teammates had reported to camp at noon, and Manning walked into an in-progress offensive meeting. "I saw Coach Coughlin and said hi to him," Manning said. "I saw [quarterbacks coach Kevin] Gilbride, and sat next to him. I got my playbook and started learning. A few players in the meeting said congratulations on getting in here."

The quarterback competition is the most intriguing storyline in the Giants' camp, but it isn't the only one. The club will be carefully monitoring the progress of tight end Jeremy Shockey, who is slated to miss the first couple weeks of camp after undergoing recent foot surgery. And it will be interesting to see how the players react to the no-nonsense ways of Coughlin after the Giants lost two days of offseason practices for violating the league's rules governing how such workouts can be conducted. The penalty was imposed after an investigation by the league and the Players Association prompted by complaints by Giants players to the union.

"I love training camp, quite frankly, because it gives you an opportunity to have the players in a capacity unlike any other time of the year," said Coughlin, who took the Jacksonville Jaguars to two AFC title games and was hired by the Giants after Jim Fassel was fired following a 4-12 season. "You're basically trying to eliminate distraction and get them in an element where it is football and it's all football. Their entire day is consumed by football. They literally don't leave your presence at all."

Still, this shouldn't be a repeat -- at least not immediately -- of the 2001 Washington Redskins, when many veteran players turned on new coach Marty Schottenheimer beginning with a rugged opening practice of training camp. Coughlin said he will ease into camp and the team won't conduct its first practice in full pads until Monday.

"There's a place for fun," Coughlin said. "But there's also a place for business{lcub}hellip{rcub}. There's plenty of time for the social aspect of the game. You only see one side of me and that's the business side, and that's the way it should be. I don't want people goose-stepping. I'm not interested in that. But I am interested in people understanding that the game has to be played intelligently, that there are consequences to be met when you make foolish penalties and cost your team the opportunity{lcub}hellip{rcub}. People have to be disciplined in that approach, and they have to recognize the fact that your teammates are relying on you."


The $20 million in bonus money in Manning's contract was widely portrayed as a signing bonus payable in five annual installments of $4 million apiece, but Accorsi said in a conversation outside the Giants' dining hall Thursday evening that it's not a signing bonus. "No, it's not," Accorsi said. "We couldn't do that against the [salary] cap. He isn't guaranteed to get all that money, or else the league would have counted it all as a signing bonus."

Rather, Accorsi said, the $20 million is divided into five separate bonuses. All the bonuses after the initial bonus are option bonuses, Accorsi said.

Anyone who understands the Giants' salary cap situation realizes that the $20 million could not have been entirely a signing bonus. A $20 million signing bonus would have counted $3.3 million against the Giants' salary cap in each of the six seasons of the contract; Manning's rookie-year impact against the salary cap would have been about $3.5 million after his salary was added in. That was too much for the Giants to handle. They were assigned a rookie-pool allocation -- a salary cap for a team's rookies within the overall salary cap, based on the number and quality of the club's draft selections -- of only $4.37 million, ninth-highest in the league, because they traded for Manning after he was drafted by San Diego. They used the fourth overall choice on quarterback Philip Rivers, then traded him to the Chargers. If the Giants and Chargers had swapped picks before the draft, the Giants would have been assigned a higher rookie pool and the Manning negotiations would not have been nearly as complicated for Accorsi and Condon.

Accorsi and Condon consulted with the league frequently as they negotiated all day Wednesday and overnight in crafting the complex deal.

"It took us a long time, but mostly because this is a very complicated contract," Accorsi said during a news conference earlier Thursday. "We wanted to treat him like a number one pick, but that can't be done at face value. That has to be done with option bonuses, and that is not simple. And that's what took so much time."

Manning's camp maintained that the $20 million in guaranteed money in Manning's contract is the second-most in any player's contract in NFL history, matching the $20 million signing bonus that quarterback Donovan McNabb received from the Philadelphia Eagles in a 2002 deal. But Accorsi indicated the money is not fully guaranteed, and said that quarterbacks and top overall draft selections Tim Couch (in 1999) and David Carr (in 2002) received more guaranteed money in their deals. Couch's deal included $21 million in bonuses, but a person familiar with that contract said the deal contained some give-back provisions. The Giants guaranteed $20.9 million of defensive end Michael Strahan's seven-year, $46 million deal in 2002.

Still, it seems fair to call Manning's contract the richest ever for a rookie, despite the increasingly subjective nature of complicated deals. And it's clear that the Mannings should make Condon an honorary family member.

The reigning king of NFL agents negotiated the seven-year, $98 million deal that quarterback Peyton Manning signed with the Indianapolis Colts in March, with a league-record $34.5 million signing bonus. Now he has hammered out a deal that can pay Eli Manning as much as $54 million if he earns the $9 million in possible incentives in the contract -- based not on playing time, Accorsi said, but on reaching Super Bowls and Pro Bowls and achieving top-five status in league statistical categories.

"You don't get excited when you give away millions," Accorsi said. "But I'm happy it's done. I wanted to say it wasn't always a love-fest at times. But when you deal with someone like Tom Condon, there's never any rancor. It's always professional. Sure, he asks for the moon and the solar system, but that's his job. He comes to the site, and his intent is to get it done. He came [Wednesday] at 8 o'clock in the morning, and you just had that feeling that he wasn't leaving until we were done and it was fair.''.

Eli Manning said there won't be any immediate material rewards for his new contract. "I'm in the dorm for the next month," he said. "I walked in there for the first time and had a little TV, and that will do for now. And my new playbook." . . .

Giants officials were perplexed Thursday when rookie quarterback Jared Lorenzen, an undrafted free agent out of Kentucky, was a camp no-show, apparently believing that he'd been cut.

"We didn't cut Lorenzen," Accorsi said. "I don't know where that started. . . . That's not true. He didn't report so we put him on the reserve-did not report list."


The focus now shifts to agent Jimmy Sexton's deliberations with the Chargers on a contract for Rivers. The Chargers have a problem far different than the one the Giants faced: They have too much salary cap space, having been assigned a league-high $6.025 million rookie pool based on them having the top overall selection in the draft. Sexton likely will seek a contract for Rivers similar to Manning's, but the Chargers probably will remain adamant that Rivers should be paid like the fourth choice, not the first. The Chargers are scheduled to begin camp today in Carson, Calif. . . .

The Pittsburgh Steelers are close to completing a deal with agent Leigh Steinberg for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the 11th overall choice in the draft. . . .

Agent Rick Smith hasn't gotten the acclaim that Condon has, but also has had a stellar few months. He got $18.5 million in guaranteed money in the seven-year contract that tackle Robert Gallery, the second overall pick, signed with the Oakland Raiders on Thursday. Smith also negotiated the five-year, $38 million contract extension (including $12 million in bonus money) that quarterback Jake Delhomme signed with the Carolina Panthers last month. . . .

Cornerback Champ Bailey already has become a favorite of Denver Broncos fans, as demonstrated by the way they cheered him during the opening practices of training camp this week. He isn't even the No. 1 Bronco in his neighborhood, however. He lives next door to John Elway in the Denver suburb of Cherry Hills.


Wide receiver Keenan McCardell said Thursday that he would hold out from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' camp. McCardell has two years remaining on his current contract for salaries of $2.5 million this season and $2.75 million in 2005, and is seeking a raise to about $4.4 million per season.

"Unfortunately, no progress has been made on a fair-market contract for me for the upcoming season," McCardell said in a written statement. "Therefore, as I previously stated, my only choice under the system is to withhold my services. As much as I'd like to be with my teammates working towards another trip to the Super Bowl, I will continue to work out on my own. If and when the team is willing to reasonably extend my contract, I will be on the first plane from Houston to join my teammates in Florida.''{lcub}hellip{rcub} The Miami Dolphins appear to be making significant progress on a contract for defensive end Adewale Ogunleye, the reigning AFC sack champion who has said he won't report to camp without a new, long-term deal. . . .

Quarterback Tim Rattay has been cleared to practice with the San Francisco 49ers. He's ahead of schedule in his return from offseason surgery for a torn groin muscle.