Training camp rolled on as the media met with several players in the afternoon before Friday's evening practice.
Tight end Darren Waller, offensive tackle Evan Neal and cornerback Deonte Banks spoke to reporters over Zoom ahead of training camp practice No. 3.
Here are the top highlights from Friday's player press conferences:
Neal 'put on a lot more muscle'
When he reported to training camp last year, right tackle Evan Neal was officially listed at 6-foot-7, 350 pounds. As many young players have noted in the past, training in preparation for the combine and draft is very different than training for a season. Now heading into Year 2, Neal was able to turn his focus this offseason on getting his body ready for an NFL season, which included adding some muscle.
"We are still in training camp, but I definitely can say I am in a lot better shape, I feel a lot healthier… Neal told reporters. "I definitely put on more muscle and got more lean. I weighed in whenever we got here for training camp, I was 345. My final weight was 353, so I shed a few pounds, but I put on a lot more muscle for sure."
While he enjoyed a successful collegiate career at Alabama, Neal endured a lot of change during his three years in Tuscaloosa. Neal switched positions every year in college, moving from left guard to right tackle to left tackle. The 2023 season will not only be his second in coach Brian Daboll and offensive coordinator Mike Kafka's offense, but it will also be the first time since high school that Neal has played the same position in consecutive seasons.
Despite the changes last year, along with a knee injury that sidelined him for four weeks, Neal is not making excuses for his performance. Instead, he is focusing on being the best he can be this season.
"Last year was last year, man," said the right tackle. "I'm really focused on the 2023 season. I did feel like it made it more challenging for me because I had never got hurt during the season and had to play through it. So, I definitely feel like that was a factor but I'm not going to make any excuses. That's the past, we are in the present now."
View photos from Thursday's training camp practice at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center.
Waller, Jones 'gelling'
It has been over four months since GM Joe Schoen went out and acquired tight end Darren Waller from the Las Vegas Raiders. Since arriving with the Giants, Waller has spent a lot of time with quarterback Daniel Jones as they've built up some chemistry with each other. After just a few days of training camp, it's clear that the work the two have put in is already paying off.
"It's a relationship that's gelling," the tight end said about his connection with Jones. "We've got a few months under our belt of staying in touch and just open dialogue, ego removed. We can tell each other what we're thinking, what he may want, things I've been comfortable doing and things I like doing and find a midpoint or be able to just learn about each other. I feel like it's paying off and just trying to keep going day by day and let the results take care of themselves."
Waller has been impressed with Jones for several reasons, including the quarterback's cool and calm demeanor.
"I just like his even-keeled nature," said Waller. "First and foremost, he just has a calm spirit about him. It's not too high or too low, it's staying in the middle. You can tell by the way that he's navigated so many adversities in the noise of his career, that that's something he's focused on, and it's paying dividends for him now."
Banks acclimating to NFL speed
The Giants traded up a spot in the first round of this year's draft in order make sure they landed cornerback Deonte Banks. While the hope is that Banks will eventually earn the starting cornerback position opposite Adoree' Jackson this summer, the 22-year-old is still getting used to the speed of the NFL.
"I'm just getting acclimated," said the rookie corner. "It's only day three, and I've only had two practices, but I feel like I'm doing good. As far as the reps go, I've got short term memory so, 'next play mentality.'"
With only a few camp practices under his belt, Banks has a small sample size of NFL experience to learn from. However, with over six weeks to go until the season opener, the rookie is keeping a clear mindset.
"I'm just focused on getting better every day. I only can control what I can control…" Banks said. "Just trying to get my body acclimated and getting my mental acclimated to what's going on."
Waller wants to be 'viable option to the QB every time'
The Giants are less than a week into training camp and their new tight end is already putting on a show. From Daniel Jones to Xavier McKinney to Andrew Thomas, Waller has drawn rave reviews from all of his teammates, which he expressed his gratitude for on Friday.
"I mean, it's an honor for my teammates to speak of me in that way because these are guys that do it at a high level and have done it for a really long time," said the talented tight end. "I guess it's just for my size and my weight and I guess the way that I run and the multitude of routes that I try to be comfortable running, and a lot of guys don't necessarily do that. But it's just coming in with a mindset of I don't want to be limited in any part of my game. Whatever they want to line me up and run at, I want to be able to do that and be effective at it and not just be like, 'Oh man, I'm not really that good at that,' or, 'I can't do that.'"
Waller's teammates and coaches have all talked about how the tight end will serve as a mismatch nightmare for opposing defenses, something the veteran prides himself on.
"I want to be able to do everything and just present myself as a viable option to the quarterback every time I run a route," Waller said. "That's really the goal. Keep it as simple as that. Every single rep I go out there, make myself presentable. If he wants to throw it there, he can throw it there and throw it to me. So that's just how I approach it."
Thomas a great example for Neal
The big news along the offensive line this week was the contract extension for Andrew Thomas, as the fourth-year tackle is now signed with the team through 2029. Neal spoke to the media about his fellow lineman's new deal, which the 22-year-old could not have been happier about.
"Just extremely happy for him, he's came a long way through all the adversity, all the hard work he's put in," the second-year right tackle said. "I can't think of anyone that is more deserving than him, so I am extremely happy for him… Andrew is a great player and he's a great role model for me as well."
Thomas struggled at times during his rookie campaign before improving in Year 2 and taking a significant jump last season. After enduring some adversity in his own rookie season last year, Neal is confident in his ability to make a similar jump from Year 1 to Year 2.
"Just to see somebody in your room make the improvements that he's made, especially in the same position group, it's just good to be around for sure, but I am confident in myself to make the jump that I need to because I know the work that I put in day in and day out. I'm just excited," Neal said.