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Giants players adjust to regime change

Posted Dec 7, 2017

Olivier Vernon and other players are adjusting to the coaching change day by day:


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –Olivier Vernon has seen this changing of the guard before.

He was playing for the Miami Dolphins two years ago when the team fired head coach Joe Philbin after a 1-3 start. Former Giants tight end Dan Campbell guided the team to a 5-7 record over the remainder of the season.

On Monday, Vernon learned he would be playing for another interim coach when Ben McAdoo and Jerry Reese were dismissed and replaced by defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo.

“When I was with the Dolphins, it was a little earlier in the season,” Vernon said today. “Right now, this time, toward the end of the season, the guys’ mentality is playing for pride right now. Playing for pride, try to get these wins, still going out there and fighting. And that’s really the mentality right now that we’ve got in this locker room.

“Coming in last year, to this day, I never would’ve thought that was going to happen. But at the end of the day, those are great guys (McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese), I appreciate them. When the time was here, if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be here, so at the end of the day, it’s unfortunate, but it’s a business. So with the guys that we have right now, we’re just going to keep moving forward and win a game.”

The 2-10 Giants next play Sunday against the 6-6 Dallas Cowboys in their first NFC East home game of the season.

The players this week have heard a new voice, been given a new practice schedule, and have new dress requirements for practice. But Vernon said all of that change isn’t difficult to digest.

“It’s not tough at all,” he said. “At the same time, coming from being a young athlete, being if I was a rookie then it’d be different, but knowing the business side of this organization, this is the NFL. You kind of block it out by just doing your job. My job is more important to me, and for my teammates and for my guys that I play on defense with than worrying about what’s going on outside.”

The players who spoke publicly about the changes today expressed surprise that McAdoo is no longer here, and admiration for Spagnuolo.

“I know he’s a fantastic coach, definitely as a defensive coordinator,” safety Landon Collins said. “It’s kind of weird to see him as the head coach. I gave him a little grief for it, but it’s cool. It’s different and I know the defensive guys are definitely going to play hard and he’s on all us now. It’s kind of a different feel on how you’re doing things.”

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“It reminds me of my first two years with T.C. (Tom Coughlin),” offensive lineman Justin Pugh said. “Obviously, he (Spagnuolo) coached with T.C. and been around him for a while. Spags has been a head coach before, and he knows the responsibilities that it takes. So I’m happy with how he’s handling everything and the pressures that come with being the interim head coach, and inheriting everything that’s happened this year so far.”

Spagnuolo is still getting accustomed to his new duties. He was asked today if he has to remind himself at practice that he’s no longer just the defensive coordinator.

“You know, that hasn’t been that much of a problem,” he said. “What I have to remind myself is functioning as the head coach because I start to venture over to the defense rather than the other way around. But the staff has been great because it’s a little bit different for them, and I think the players have functioned pretty well, too.”

Spagnuolo said he has spent “not as much” time with the offense as he probably would like.

“In a perfect situation, I would have had time,” he said. “There would have been an offseason. But I think it’s smart to trust the offensive coaches going forward. I got a summary of everything early in the week, I’ll get another summary at the end of the week, and we’ll piece it all together and have three phases ready to go on Sunday.”

*Spagnuolo will hold a Friday practice and a Saturday walk-through, the opposite of what McAdoo did during his tenure.

“Tomorrow won’t be a very long practice, but it will be similar to today in tempo, and then Saturday will be your conventional walk- through,” Spagnuolo said. “We won’t have helmets on, but we’ll walk through offensive and defensive plays. We’ll do some situational football, there’ll be some special teams in there and we’ll try to get them out of the building and get them rested.”

*Four Giants did not practice today: cornerback Eli Apple (hip/back), running back Orleans Darkwa (illness), defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (finger) and Pugh (back).

“(Apple) just doesn’t feel right, right now so it’s a day-to-day thing, it really is,” Spagnuolo said.

Regarding Pierre-Paul, the coach said, “We haven’t done a lot with him this week because we don’t want to stick that in there, but we’re hopeful that he’ll be able to go. We’ll see what he can do tomorrow.”

*Pugh, who has missed the last three games, left yesterday’s practice early.

“It’s been one of those things where I came back too soon,” he said. “We’re trying to avoid doing that again, so we’re not trying to rush it. But at the same time, there is obviously a timeline because there is only four weeks left in the season. So we kind of backed off a little bit and going to try to get it going again and try to see if we can go next week. Until then, we are going to wait and talk to the doctors and see what they say.”

Five players were limited in practice: wide receiver Sterling Shepard (hamstring), tackle Chad Wheeler (concussion), running back Wayne Gallman (hip), linebacker B.J. Goodson (ankle), and defensive tackle Damon Harrison (elbow).

“Sterling Shepard is headed in a positive direction,” Spagnuolo said. “He did some things today so hopefully we’ll get him back, knock on wood.”

*The McAdoo to Spagnuolo switch was the NFL’s 39th in-season head coaching change since 1990. The new coaches’ record in their debuts over that span is 14-24.

*Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan, a West Point alumnus, was asked if Army will beat Navy on Saturday. Before answering, he noted that today is the 76th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

“It is December 7th, and I think everybody ought to take some time to remember those who died in the attack on Pearl Harbor,” Sullivan said. “I was in the Army – stationed in Hawaii and that Arizona Memorial was very moving. The sacrifices of those people, and of all of our service men and women throughout the years. We’re not able to do what we’re doing here without them. So I think we all and I’d be remiss for not mentioning that, that we all ought to remember what happened on December 7th. And, last thing I’ll say, go Army, beat Navy.”

*On Sunday, the Giants will wear their all-while color rush uniforms, which they wore last season in Philadelphia. The Giants last wore white jerseys at home on Sept. 3, 2000, in a season-opening victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

*Reminder: Kickoff on Sunday is 1 p.m. The game was originally scheduled to be at 4:25 p.m., but was moved to the earlier time last week by the NFL.