EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Smiles were the order of the day, as the Super Bowl-champion New York Giants returned home, victorious once again.
The team’s charter plane from Indianapolis touched down around 1:55 p.m. yesterday at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.
Several players saluted the crowd as they departed the aircraft, and some used cameras and video recorders to capture the moment and the scene. Coach Tom Coughlin also had a big smile as he waved to the crowd.
Once on the ground, the players, coaches, and team officials were greeted by several hundred airport employees and a Port Authority bagpipe band. Crews also fired water cannons to salute the team while the plane taxied to a hangar.
The players then took buses to the team’s headquarters in East Rutherford, where thousands of fans lined the gates waiting to catch a glimpse of the champions.
At around 2:15 p.m., a caravan of five chartered buses pulled up to the gate at the Timex Performance Center. The first bus had Coughlin sitting in the front seat, waving to the cheering fans.
When all five buses made it safely inside, the players started to filter out and to their own vehicles. Wide receiver Mario Manningham and defensive end Justin Tuck came over to the fence to greet the cheering fans, offering handshakes and high fives.
“It was just another team effort. We were so focused,’’ Tuck said later yesterday in an interview on WFAN.
Tight end Jake Ballard was spotted coming off the bus, donning crutches to help him maneuver with his injured right knee. He managed to smile and wave to the fans.
Defensive end Dave Tollefson heard chants of “D-Line, D-Line’’ from the crowd and pumped his fist into the air.
But there were two key components missing: the Vince Lombardi Trophy and quarterback Eli Manning.
Manning was in Disney World celebrating his Super Bowl MVP award.
The scene at the facility was an ironic twist to the entire season, one that began in July with the media being forced to try to gain access from outside the same gate during the final stages of the lockout.
Eight months later, again, the media was on the outside looking in. There were 11 different television news crews there, as well as 15 reporters. But no one got past the gate to gain access to the players.
The Giants captured their fourth Super Bowl championship Sunday, with a 21-17 victory over Bill Belichick and the Patriots.
“It’s a testament to hard work and never losing faith,’’ Tuck said. “And always believing in each other.’’
The Giants also became the first team to win the title after finishing the regular season 9-7.
The team had an up-and-down year, but finished with wins over the Jets and Cowboys, securing the NFC East title, before winning four straight postseason games.
The team’s parade is today.