EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. –** On Aug. 6, 2005, the Giants hosted the Jets for a joint practice at the University at Albany. The Giants' offense was up against the Jets' defense in a 9-on-7 running drill on the school's lower field when, on the second play, Jeremy Shockey was hit from behind by defensive back Oliver Celestin. Jonathan Vilma then grabbed Shockey from behind as safety Erik Coleman jumped into the fray. That prompted players to form a scrum in the middle of the field in which there was a lot of shoving, grabbing and trash-talking.
That kicked off a double-session workout that was feisty throughout.
Extracurricular activity remains prevalent when two NFL teams get together for preseason practices. On Saturday, Washington and Houston practiced together in Richmond, but they engaged in behavior more common in professional wrestling, and the teams had to be separated.
Which brings us to the Giants' upcoming week. Today and tomorrow, the Giants and Bengals will practice with and against each other in Cincinnati. It is the Giants' first work with another team since the Jets traveled to Albany 10 years go. Tom Coughlin and Bengals coach Marvin Lewis want to ensure that post-play skirmishes are not part of the action.
"It's already been addressed," Coughlin said. "Marvin and I have already talked about that, last spring. We want good, solid work, but we don't want any of that."
The joint sessions provide a break from the routine and monotony of training camp, allow the players to hit and work with someone other than their teammates, and the give the coaches an opportunity to evaluate their players in practice conditions that more closely resemble games.
The teams will meet in the preseason opener Friday night in Paul Brown Stadium, but the action on the practice field has the potential to be entertaining.
Photos of the Giants' trip to Cincinnati
"I think it will be real physical, especially against their front seven," Giants center Weston Richburg said. "They're good players and it'll be good for us to see somebody other than guys we've been practicing against for a couple weeks. It'll be nice to actually change it up a little bit."
"This isn't my first time scrimmaging against another team," said linebacker Jon Beason, who played for the Carolina Panthers before coming to the Giants in a 2013 trade. "I wish they were coming here. It's going to be more chippy, because it's chippy at practice here. You see scuffles break out and it's your own teammates, so imagine if it's an opposing team. (You try) to keep a level head and not being too prideful in terms of when a guy holds you or pushes you, the little extra stuff. Cincinnati is a chippy group, which is why we're going up against them. They're tough against the run and they run the ball extremely well. They've been in the playoffs the last four years, so it's a great opportunity to get an early gauge and get some live action. Because it'll be faster, it'll be more physical."
The Bengals have a strong front seven, and a defense that will challenge the Giants' offense, which is exactly what the players and coaches hope for and expect.
"I'm excited for it," quarterback Eli Manning said. "I think it will be good. It's always great for an offense to go against a different defense. All of a sudden you're kind of going in not really knowing what they're doing, what they're going to be showing. It's different from a game, when you go in and you game plan and you have looks. For the most part, you're just kind of going to go off what we see and make adjustments. Guys are going to have to really understand and know the rules of their assignments and their fundamentals, and do everything perfectly. We may get fooled sometimes on protections or blitzes, we've got to make adjustments, and kind of play fast. So I think that will be good, to see a different defense, a different challenge. They're a very good defense, and have good players and good against the pass. So I think it will be a good challenge for us."
Odell Beckham Jr., who missed most of training camp last year, isn't sure what to expect.
"I've never been a part of anything like that," Beckham said. "So I'm kind of going in (and) whatever it is, is whatever it is. I know I play for the Giants and they play for the Bengals, so hopefully we're out there to get work, but whatever lies is what lies there."
Fighting or not, the practices are going to be more physical and intense than a standard camp workout.
"I'm sure the intensity will be ramped up quite a bit," Richburg said. "That's all I've seen. We've never experienced it, but we've seen fights and stuff from other teams. It'll be physical, I'm sure, which we're excited about."
"I think that's the intention," Manning said. "I think when you go against another defense, the energy should get picked up a little bit, or when you go against another team, energy should get picked up a little bit. I think maybe that's the reason the Giants, Coach Coughlin, Cincinnati want to do it. I think it's the responsibility of the coaches to set the tone, to say 'Hey, we can be physical, we can play fast, but we're going to keep it safe and we're not going to have the fights.' I think between coach Lewis and coach Coughlin, they'll set the stage right and make sure we are respectful and don't want any injuries or anybody to do anything stupid in those practices."
- Beckham is looking forward to spending time with Bengals running back Jeremy Hill, his former LSU teammate. Hill rushed for 1,124 yards last year, including a league-leading 929 in the season's last nine weeks. He might have been voted Rookie of the Year…if not for Beckham's spectacular numbers.
"Oh man, I can't wait," Beckham said. "I can't wait to see Jeremy. We Facetime and we talk pretty much every day. Just clown with him and just ready to get to see him go to work. It's just something about one of your boys, one of your brothers that you've played with. Watching him do his thing, it makes you want to do your thing. So I'm definitely excited to see him. Best of luck to him."