EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Ronnie Barnes might be the hardest working man on the New York Giants.
Seven days a week, roughly 12 hours a day over the last 20 years, Barnes has helped make it possible for Giants to step up and make big plays.
He's been the players' father-confessor, best friend, financial adviser, guidance counselor and one more thing -- their trainer, one of the foremost in sports.
Barnes, 48, is also more than that. He's an educator, an author and wealthy enough that he probably doesn't have to work another day if he felt like it. He got his money selling a string of rehabilitation clinics.
He shakes his head at that idea.
''This is what I trained to do, this is what I like,'' Barnes said Tuesday in a rare break with the Giants less than two weeks away from a Super Bowl meeting with the Baltimore Ravens.
''This is a great place to work, a great environment. I don't know anything else but this,'' he said. ''For me, I think it would be a great waste of my training to just not do anything. This is what I love.''
While the average fan might not recognize Barnes, the contributions he and his staff make to the team are invaluable.
Take a look at the Giants' 41-0 win over the Minnesota Vikings in the NFC championship game on Sunday.
While the game was a blowout, the tone was set on the first series, a four-play, 74-yard drive culminated by a 46-yard touchdown pass to Ike Hilliard.
The first two plays were the ones to note, passes of 16 and 10 yards to Amani Toomer. Four days earlier, Toomer had to leave practice because the left ankle he sprained against Philadelphia the previous Sunday was killing him.
Toomer, the Giants leading receiver, got almost round-the-clock treatment over the next 24 hours. Heat, electricity, sound, water, exercise and massage all went into the mix.
''Mother nature was on our side,'' Barnes said. ''It wasn't a high ankle sprain.''
Barnes knew Toomer had turned the corner on Thursday when he was able to get up on his toes and hop. He was a little better on Friday.
''By Saturday, we said 'miraculous recovery,' but we kept our fingers crossed.'' Barnes said.
Barnes says all athletes are different and a trainer has to know how to listen, hear their fears and determine a course of treatment.
Of course, some athletes are very different. Lawrence Taylor played in the Giants' Super Bowl win over the Buffalo Bills in January 1991 with a broken ankle.
''L.T. is probably entirely different from any player we had,'' Barnes said. ''He had a torn pec (pectoral), a torn Achilles' tendon and a fractured ankle, but it was never 'How long am I going to be out?' It was 'What are you going to do to help me play.' That was just his makeup.
''He expected not to miss any games and he made us directly responsible,'' Barnes added. ''But he only stopped still for about 15 minutes of treatment, just a tremendous makeup, great protoplasm.''
Barnes said current Giants cornerback Jason Sehorn is like Taylor.
''You have to make him stop doing things to protect him from himself so that he can heal,'' Barnes said.
Barnes' golden rule is to be honest with the athletes and let them help in determining a course of treatment.
The Giants training room has about 11 modern tables where athletes can be examined and taped and numerous stations, machines and 'toys' for rehabilitation.
Elected to the National Athletic Trainers Association Hall of Fame in 1999, Barnes also has in place a world-wide network of physicians and trainers he can reach out to for help.
''Ronnie has brought in every modern piece of equipment that could help players rehabilitate and he assembled the most advanced training staff in the world,'' said Dr. Hugh Gardy, a dentist who has spent the last 25 years working for the Giants, Nets and Devils. ''What he did with this team was he brought them out of the Dark Ages.'' He's also done with a sense of class.
When a player or his family has needed help, Barnes has been there for them.
Giants staff members love Barnes' sense of humor.
Tony Ceglio, the director of television productions, says Barnes always used to bait former coach Bill Parcells on game day by placing heads-up pennies in the locker room. Parcells was superstitious and felt if he found a heads-up penny he would have good luck that day.
''Bill used to say that if he was irritable and not comfortable, he'd coach better and the team would play better,'' Barnes said. ''So I put a rock or a pebble in his shoe on game days. I don't know if he took it out, but he'd always say: ''I have a rock in my shoe.''
Barnes said current coach Jim Fassel always sticks his head in his office on Sunday morning at the same time to inquire if everyone is OK.
''Generally there is always someone who has a headache or a fever, but it would ruin his day if I told him, so I always say 'Coach, everyone is great.'''
Barnes favorite Parcells story involves a game in which halfback Joe Morris had a concussion.
Parcells wanted Morris to go back in the game.
''I said: 'What do you want to do, kill him?'' Barnes recalled.
''He said: 'No, but I'm going to kill you' and he chased me down the sidelines and said he was going to choke me.''
The chase stopped when Parcells was yanked back when the cord of his headphones reached their limit.
Barnes laughs as he tells the story. He has fun doing what he does, which is what is important.
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