EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – He doesn't look like a rookie, but Eli Manning all but played one this week.
The Giants' 15-year quarterback was one of the select veterans who joined the team's first-year players on the field for two of the three workouts prior to today's full-squad opening of training camp. The other quarterbacks were veteran Alex Tanney, second-year pro Davis Webb, and rookie fourth-round draft choice Kyle Lauletta, whose combined total of 14 regular-season passes – all by Tanney – are a mere 7,382 less than Manning has thrown.
"It was good, I enjoyed it," Manning said today at his camp-opening news conference. "I enjoyed coming in, especially with the new offense, and just getting a little jumpstart, getting some reminders on some of the calls and different things, and just to come in and get in the meeting rooms, getting to come in a few days early. Pretty light work on the field, so I enjoyed coming in and doing that for a few days, and look forward to getting started up for real tomorrow."
It's no surprise Manning was happy to get a head start on Pat Shurmur's first Giants training camp. With a rebuilt offensive line in front of him and weapons like Odell Beckham, Jr., Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley to catch and carry the ball, Manning is bullish on the Giants' prospects for 2018.
"I'm excited about this team and the opportunities we have ahead of us, excited about the guys who are on this offense and the receivers, the offensive line, the playmakers that we have, the running backs," he said. "So I look forward to getting to work and making sure we got – you know, there are some good names on paper, that looks good, but we've got to make sure we're doing what we need to be doing on the field."
At the top of that list is Manning, who had a subpar – for him – season in 2017, when he threw for 3,468 yards (his lowest total since 2008) and 19 touchdown passes (the second-lowest full-season total in his career).
Manning is 37, and with the aforementioned younger quarterbacks competing for playing time, and a new head coach/play-caller in Shurmur, it would be understandable if he felt pressure to show rapid and substantial improvement this year. But pondering his status has never been part of Manning's thought process.
"I think there is always, the quarterback, there is always expectations and no one has higher expectations than I do for myself, and this team and what we want to do," he said. "So, hey, I see the talent there. You never know when's going to be that opportunity or what's that special team where you can make it a special season. You don't know when that opportunity is going to come and how many more you have, so you try to make the most of it each and every year. So I don't think pressure is the right word to use, but I think I want to go out there and make something special this year."
Giants players arrive for Day 1 of 2018 Training Camp
All the playmakers the Giants will put on the field should give Manning and the team a chance to do exactly that. In addition to handing off to Barkley and throwing to Beckham and the other receivers, Manning is excited to work with Shurmur, who is beginning his 20th consecutive season as an NFL coach. Shurmur's offensive schemes and play-calling helped the Minnesota Vikings advance to the NFC Championship Game last season (and earn Shurmur the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year award). Manning believes he and his new coach will form a productive partnership.
"We've both been around a lot of football," Manning said. "I think we see things very similar. I think when he talks about concepts he wants to get to or things he likes for certain coverages for defenses, it makes sense. He's also willing to listen to ideas and talk football and kind of talk about things we've had success with in the past, and kind of be willing to try those things. So I think he's been very open, but also has his way of doing things and his philosophies that again make sense to me, and things we've done in the past as well. I think we've been on the same page and look forward to just keep talking to him, keep being around him, and coach (Mike) Shula (the offensive coordinator). You know, every day for practice going against our defense, there will be things you can learn from, different ideas we can get to prepare us for the season."
It's not just Manning's outlook that is healthy as the Giants begin camp. After 7,796 regular-season and postseason pass attempts – and countless more in practices and the preseason – he is ready to keep slinging the ball.
"(My) arm feels great," Manning said. "I don't think there's ever major changes that you do during the offseason. I think over the years there have been little tweaks, and you kind of get to where you are now, but nothing drastic in that sense. But I feel healthy, feel strong, and feel as good as I have felt going into any camp."
That's good news for anyone who wants the Giants to win.