ALBANY, N.Y. – When the Giants opened training camp in 2011, Tom Coughlin delivered a one-word, T-shirt-ready directive to his players: "Finish." The Giants followed the order perfectly, winning their final six games, including Super Bowl XLVI.
The late-season surge and resulting championship resulted in a considerably longer message when Coughlin welcomed the players to training camp today at the University at Albany.
"The message is one of improvement," Coughlin said – but he was just warming up. "It's one of taking full advantage of setting the bar, and what we were able to do in the last six games of the year, and analyzing the previous 14 to the last six, and saying to ourselves, 'Which team are we here?' The quality in which we played. The things that I've mentioned the whole offseason, 14 points a game, one turnover, big special teams plays (in the postseason). Those have really established the team we can be. An awful lot of emphasis is on improvement. We certainly want to continue with 'All In,' and 'Finish,' but we'd also like to come out of the starting gate and sustain, and then we'd like to finish. We would like to establish the kind of consistency that we think we're capable of playing with. Those are all of the challenges that we gave them in this very first meeting we just had."
When a reporter mentioned that message was a little difficult to fit on a shirt, Coughlin smiled and said, "You don't see any T-shirts, do you? The message is a little lengthy for that."
The key is not how long the edict is, but whether the players take it to heart. They certainly seem to. Eli Manning has pointed out the Giants were just 9-7 in the regular season and have much room for growth. Key players such as Justin Tuck and Victor Cruz have spoken of the importance of staying sharp and hungry and preparing for opponents who can create a season highlight by knocking off the defending champions.
"I feel they realize (the importance of playing up to the message)," Coughlin said. "They've all said as much. The fact that we did so well in the final six games. The fact we played so well in the fourth quarter. The fact we did so many good things on defense in the playoffs. But when you pull out, as we do, the worst to best each year, and you look at the top, the real list of what we didn't do well, that's what we have impress on our team in terms of what got to be improved upon. Because the comparison between the last six (games) and the first 14, you kind of just shake your head."
*Coughlin said four players will open camp on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list: wide receiver Hakeem Nicks (who broke his foot in June), defensive tackle Chris Canty (offseason knee surgery), tight end Travis Beckum (torn ACL in the Super Bowl) and linebacker Clint Sintim (who missed the entire 2011 season with a knee injury).
When he suffered the injury, Nicks was confident he would be ready for the Sept. 5 season opener vs. Dallas.
"There are no setbacks, but he just started running," Coughlin said. "He just started running in the wading pool. He's got all of that to go through before he can get out there. He's been on the elliptical, so he can do some things like catching the ball, but he's not going to be able to run."
Canty started every game last season, but Coughlin said of his recovery, "It's going to take a little while."
*Left tackle Will Beatty, who missed the June minicamp with a back issue, will be "limited" according to Coughlin. Beatty did not run in today's conditioning test.
"But he'll be able to go," Coughlin said. "We're going to have to be careful with him. No doubt. But he can medically start practice."
*The Giants, PYX 106 and NewsChannel 13 are teaming up with the American Red Cross to host the New York Giants Training Camp Blood Drive on Thursday, August 2, from noon to 7 p.m. The event will be held at the Best Western Sovereign Hotel, 1228 Western Avenue, Albany, N.Y. 12203, across from the team's training camp site at the University at Albany.
Each presenting donor will have their photo taken with the Super Bowl Trophy, and the first 500 presenting donors will also receive a limited edition Giants commemorative T-shirt. Giants legends George Martin, Ottis Anderson and Joe Morris will appear throughout the day to greet donors and sign autographs.
A limited number of appointments are available, so fans are encouraged to visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS to register.