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Eli: "I want to be the guy to step up"

Has Eli Manning grown up and developed a little backbone? Some comments attributed to him indicate that maybe the Giants quarterback has done just that.

Manning told the Daily News that he is ready to accept the mantel of leadership.

"You want to be a leader, even when things are going good or going bad. I want to be the guy to step up, make plays and lead the team. ... "As far as leadership it's something you earn, the respect of your teammates. You play well, prepare for every game and when things get tough ... you step up."

Manning also said he believed he had earned the respect needed to lead.

"I think so," Manning said. "We've won enough games, they know how I prepare, how I work and study and get mentally ready."

Manning, of course, won't have Tiki Barber to hand the ball to this season. He took what might be considered a shot at Barber, and sent a message to his teammates at the same time that he doesn't want to hear any excuses about missing Tiki.

"I don't think we're concerned," Manning told the Daily News. "We're excited by the players that we have who wanted to return for this season, and who wanted to be a part of the Giants and play."

Good for Eli. Maybe it's a sign that the soft-spoken 'other' Manning is ready to turn the Giants into his team.

Giants fans can only hope that turns out to be the case.