Eli's comin', San Diego

ROB LONGLEY -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:04 PM ET

As a college star at Ole Miss, Eli Manning played in his share of hostile environments.

This time, the anger directed his way will be personal.

This time, Peyton's little brother is headed to enemy territory with the New York Giants to face the team he snubbed on draft day two years ago.

A 12-4 season last year may have helped the San Diego Chargers forget, but not to forgive.

"For a guy who said he doesn't want to play for an organization, it was disrespectful to all of us," Chargers nose tackle Jamal Williams said. "Not only to the Chargers but the NFL.

"There are a lot of people who would love the opportunity to play for any team in the NFL. I don't know if (Manning is) a person being spoiled or what. Hey, there are a million other people who want that opportunity."

Anti-Eli mania has dominated the talk in southernmost California this week. After the Chargers selected Manning first overall in the 2004 draft, he was dealt to the Giants as he remained adamant he wouldn't play in San Diego.

"I don't know if I have played in a place where a team had a reason to dislike me," Manning said this week, referring to his college days in the SEC where the fans rabidly hated the opposing uniforms more than the players in them.

"I knew when I made my decision the people of San Diego would harass me. There wasn't one specific thing, I just didn't think it was a good fit for me.

"It wasn't the place I wanted to go to for six years."

Chargers fans will be especially fired up after an 0-2 start to a season in which great things were expected.

Now they have to wonder whether last year's 12-4 campaign was a fluke, a record built up on one of the league's easiest schedules.

With a trip to New England next week to meet the Patriots, tomorrow's game is as must win as they come this early.

"We're definitely motivated to beat them and to show him that we are a better team than he thought," Chargers linebacker Ben Leber said. "And more importantly, the fans are feeling crazy about it and we don't want to let them done."

What do the 2-0 Giants make of the rude welcome awaiting their kid QB?

"He's a big boy," running back Tiki Barber said. "He can handle it."

BUNGLES NO MORE

The previous two times the Cincinnati Bengals started a season 2-0 (in 1981 and 1988), they made it to the Super Bowl.

Such talk drives Bengals coach Marvin Lewis bonkers, even if the long-suffering Bengals fans finally appear to have something to get excited about.

"Our guys really need to focus on the task at hand," said Lewis, whose team has outscored the opposition 64-21 thus far.

"This week, it's beating the Chicago Bears and really don't worry about the outside influence in any way.

"I've said from the start that we were neither as good nor as bad as sometimes talked about. Let's just play football. How you play each week is how you are judged."

Apparently, quarterback Carson Palmer, one of the early-season stars of the league, has bought in to Lewis' caution.

"We love that the city is behind and that there is a lot of electricity around here right now," Palmer said.

"That's great. But people have to realize it's only two games. We've played well early, but we all know in this locker room that 2-0 doesn't mean much."


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