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AIR FORCE PILOT'S TALK HELPS GIANTS' D

Times wires

If Jim Demarest describes an experience as "awesome" and "pretty great," it carries weight. After all, he's a Desert Storm veteran and Air Force fighter pilot.

But that was what he said he was thinking after the Giants' win in the NFC title game, a win in which he played an indirect role.

Amid the celebration, defensive backs coach Peter Giunta introduced Demarest to his brother by saying: "This is 'Boots.' He really helped our team get to the Super Bowl."

Said Demarest, who got his nickname as a young pilot with an especially well-shined pair of flying boots: "It doesn't get much better than that."

Demarest and his firm, Afterburner, specialize in team building from the perspective of former military men. What began as a presentation by Demarest, 51, and two colleagues during the bye week in mid October led to a daylong visit to the Giants' practice facility by Demarest on Nov. 7.

Since then, the lifelong Giants fan has remained in contact, primarily via email, with coach Tom Coughlin and his assistants, especially defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.

Among the themes Afterburner addressed, the one that resonated most with the team was "debriefing," reviewing what went right or wrong during a game.

The trick, Demarest said, is to do so in an open, "nameless and rankless" environment in which anyone can say what is on his mind without fear of consequences. Fewell said the presentation greatly helped his unit, which struggled for most of the season but has shined during the playoffs.

"Nameless and rankless, those are the two words we've taken ... to really help our defense over the last two months," Fewell said. "Those words enabled us to really understand that we are all human, we all make mistakes and no one on our defense is on a pedestal.

"It's forced us to all be accountable to each other. When we have our debrief sessions after games, our leaders are forced to stand up and take charge of the room to get everyone on the same page and working together."

As Demarest was warned, getting and keeping the attention of football players is a challenge. But fighter pilots have a better chance than most.

"For them, it's life and death," Giants S Deon Grant said. "So hearing them talk about how they can put their pride and feelings to the side and come together was the main key I took from what they tried to teach us."

Nice gifts: Patriots WR Chad Ochocinco bought teammates and coaches $400 headphones for the plane ride to Indianapolis. The 70 pairs cost him $28,000.

Bed checks: Coughlin said he will institute a curfew for players. But just as four years ago, the last time his team played in the Super Bowl, he conferred with team leaders before making the decision.

"The main thing is that they're professionals and they understand they're going to the biggest sporting event in the world," said Coughlin, who didn't disclose at what time players must be in their hotel room. "They want to make sure that they prepare themselves properly for this great occurrence. We've talked about different aspects of this all week long.

"There's no way that anyone wants to do anything to embarrass himself, his family name, his franchise. That's all been stated. But I think this group is really, really interested in being as good as they can possibly be."

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