Veterans are here. Rookies have been in. Training camp is now officially open.
The New York Giants, who warmed up with two days of practices for rookies and other young players, welcomed the entire team back to the Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Wednesday. Coach Pat Shurmur and several players addressed the media in advance of the team's first full practice, which kicks off tomorrow at 2:45 p.m. and is open to the public.
Here are five things we learned:
1. Eli focused on present, not future or past. Quarterback Eli Manning, who last season surpassed Michael Strahan for most games played in a Giants uniform, reported for his 16th training camp on Wednesday. He did so three months after the team drafted Daniel Jones sixth overall, making him the highest quarterback taken by the Giants since Manning in 2004. Naturally, people wonder when Jones will take over, a question that is impossible to answer at this point.
"I think you deal with it in, hey, I have a job to go out there and do my best," Manning said. "It hasn't changed for 16 years and it never will. You go out there and you're competing against the defense. Whenever I'm up, I'm competing against the defense and I'm trying to get our players to play our best and make plays. That's the mindset, you want to try and make improvements in practice, have goals to get better at certain things every day and make those strides of improvement at every practice. That's the mindset that you concern yourself with."
Manning added: "I try not to reflect much. It's all about what I can do this year and do right now. I think about the players we have on this team. I want those guys to experience some of the success that we've had here at the Giants in the past. To make playoffs and win championships and get on win streaks. To feel like you are playing better than anybody else in the league at that moment. Those are fun and great memories, but I'm not reflecting on those. I want these guys who maybe haven't had that to experience that."
2. Solder and Remmers to return; Slayton out with tweaked hamstring. Offensive tackles Nate Solder (offseason ankle procedure) and Mike Remmers (back) missed spring football but will not be placed on the physically unable to perform list. They "will be going" tomorrow when the Giants hold their first full-squad practice, according to Shurmur. Whether or not they will be limited remains to be seen. Meanwhile, wide receiver Darius Slayton, a fifth-round draft choice who impressed the coaching staff in OTAs, tweaked his hamstring during Tuesday's practice for rookies and selected veterans. Shurmur said it was "nothing serious" and that "he'll be back soon."
3. Jones earning the respect of teammates. When Manning set out on his first season in the NFL, his immediate goal was to earn the respect of his teammates, which at the time included names like Michael Strahan, Tiki Barber, Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard. Jones is doing the same now with Saquon Barkley, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate and, of course, Manning.
"Guys who have been in Super Bowls and been to Pro Bowls, it takes a while before you can tell them, 'Hey, I think you have to run this route a little deeper,'" Manning said. "I didn't know exactly what their route was, exact distances, or I thought I did but you have to get hit a few times, you have to work hard, you have to make plays, you have to earn the respect that you are putting in the effort, you are putting in the work and the same commitment they have been doing the last 10 years before you can talk to them. That was the mindset. I think Daniel has done a good job of that, kind of head down, work hard, do everything you are told to do and try to earn the respect of your teammates."
In terms of if and when Jones takes first-team reps this summer, Shurmur said the team has a plan for that.
"It'll sort of reveal itself," Shurmur said. "The good news about training camp is you'll be there for everything, step by step, so you can watch it with me."
4. Shepard has more on his plate in Year 4. Sterling Shepard signed a four-year contract extension in March, keeping him in a Giants uniform for another five years (he has one season remaining on this rookie deal). He is also the only wide receiver on the Giants' roster who has been with the team for more than one season. That puts more on the plate of the former second-round draft pick who is entering his fourth season.
"I know a little bit is going to be added on my plate, but I've been groomed and I've been prepared for this moment," Shepard said. "With Odell [Beckham Jr.] going out the past two seasons, I think I've just been groomed for that position, and I'm really just focused on the guys we have in the locker room and the guys we have in the receiver room. So, yes, I know there's a little bit added on my plate, but I'm not going to put any extra pressure on myself. I'm just going to come out and be me."
Is more added on or off the field?
"I think both," said Shepard, who trained with running back Saquon Barkley this offseason in Los Angeles. "I'm the longest tenured guy in the receiver room, so I have to make sure all the guys are in line. I have Golden Tate with me, who's been around the game for a long time, so he knows how things are supposed to be done, and we're just going to take it from there."
Welcome back! The Giants have arrived at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center for the start of training camp
5. Ogletree sees no reason D can't be in top 10. Linebacker Alec Ogletree, who was a defensive co-captain in his first year with the team in 2018, firmly believes the defense will improve in the second year under James Bettcher. In the first, the defense ranked 23rd in scoring and 24th in yards, an improvement from the year before but still not up to the team's expectations.
"Everybody has their own opinion of what we're going to do this year and what our defense is going to be," Ogletree said. "But we have our own goals. We have our own expectations. Like I said, there's no reason why we can't be a top 10 defense. It's just about us going out there and doing the right things, putting in the work that's going to cause us to be a top 10 defense. That's what we expect. This organization has a great tradition of having a great defense, and we want to be part of that as well. It's up to us and what we do. If we do it the right way, and everybody plays for one another and competes every day, then I think we have a great opportunity to be a top 10 defense. That's our goal for sure."